June 19, 2009

Midwest Energy Fair - Stevens Point, WI

In case you haven't picked up on it yet, Kim and I are very interested in energy efficient home construction techniques, along with individual resources that yield energy independence. While in Bayfield, I went to Oly's Barber Shop and Oly is very interested in building an "off the grid" home. While discussing some ideas for construction, he explained that the nations premier energy education event, the Midwest Energy Fair, was being held this weekend. http://www.the-mrea.org/energy_fair.php

It didn't take much discussion for us to decide to make the 280 mile drive down for the weekend. We left the trailer in Duluth, opting to rough it at the fair. We beat the crowd entering the makeshift (but nice) campground on Thursday eve. Our tent site was in a thick pine forest, next to a large field.

A short hike through the "back woods" made easy access to the fairgrounds. The owners of the property had done an outstanding job of preparing for the large crowd of campers that arrived Friday!

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association headquarters and test facility is right there on the grounds.

The site has several installations of both solar and wind devices, with demonstration areas that house all of the control systems that feed the building.

By 9 a.m. Friday morning a large crowd stood ready to enter the gates, beyond which were several rows of large tents, each color-coded for certain workshops throughout the 3-day event.

Just past these tents are three large barn-like structures, in which over 270 vendors of energy related equipment, services and supplies stood ready with their wares. If you were not quite ready to take the plunge on equipment, there were hundreds of books and DVDs available on just about any energy related topic of interest.

We spent most of the two days in workshops. My favorite was the series given by Rob Roy on various types low-cost, owner-built construction, which included talks on earthen covered, cordwood masonry and timber framing. We were so impressed with Rob and his concepts, we signed up for his 5-day workshop in Colorado this September. http://www.cordwoodmasonry.com/

In addition there was a demo area where workshop hosts actually constructed small examples of the techniques. One of the most interesting was an area devoted to whole tree construction. http://www.wholetreesarchitecture.com/

There was lots of good food to choose from, including ethnic varieties and meals cooked in solar ovens right at the fair!

Another interesting concept in building the "Edge" employs unique architectural design and features with European-style machined woods. This modular home of some 400 sq ft can be custom ordered with various options, and assembled on site in less than a week! http://www.revarch.com/pages/Pages/pages/Concept%20Home.htm

Throughout the day Friday & Saturday, and both evenings we were treated to live music at one of three stages, the big tent hosting a rock band and dance each evening - what a party!

No renwable energy fair would be complete without a focus on transportation. Although no major car manufacturers were there, several do-it-your-selfers had some interesting "plug and play" concepts on hand. My favorites were the solar-powered bicycles,

along with this hefty surprise.....yes it works and does about 50mph! True to the farming area the event is hosted in, a local fellow had an old diesel engine powered by bio diesel turn a 5KW generator!