Environment
2:22 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Renewable Energy Group's Message 'Fairs' Well

WUWM environmental reporter Susan Bence interviews founders and current members of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

We travel to central Wisconsin to learn about the history of the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair.

For decades, Wisconsinites have experimented with alternative energy sources.

The 1960s and 70s were times of heightened environmental awareness; early adopters in central Wisconsin - in the Stevens Point area - tinkered, and gradually became skilled solar and wind installers.

In 1990, pooling their combined knowledge and passion, the small circle staged an “energy fair” at the Portage County fairgrounds – thinking it would likely be a “one time” event.

Instead, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, or MREA, blossomed. Today, a new generation of passionate clean energy advocates are carrying on its mission.

That abiding message,   to raise awareness - and use - of renewable energy, is on display this weekend, as the MREA stages its 24th annual fair on its own grounds.

“The MREA practices what it preaches," says executive director Nick Hylla, "and that helps inspire people  to follow suit."

MREA's headquarters produces 100 percent of its energy on-site.

Showing people that installing solar and wind is doable overcomes the biggest hurdle to stepping into clean energy solutions.

Hylla says MREA constantly evaluates its outreach and training.

They offer primer courses, educating people on the value of a renewable energy investment and how to integrate the technology into their homes or businesses.

Their training programs also target professionals already working in the industry, looking for advancement.

Josh Stolzenburg first stepped into MREA when he was a student.  Now he owns North Wind Renewable Energy. It offers a wide range of alternative energy options and home-building improvements, and Stolzenburg says business is "going well."

Executive director Nick Hylla acknowledges some governments have embraced green energy more enthusiastically than other, but says businesses and corporations are seizing the opportunity in operations around the world.

"Clearly, clearly, fossil fuels are a limited resources…they’re gonna run out," says Bob Ramlow, one of the founders of MREA. He warns if Americans  want to maintain the comfortable  lifestyles so many people are accustomed to , it's critically important to make a change, because the energy resources we are dependent on are finite.  

Ramlow's wife, Marguerite, also an MREA founder, says the organization took hold because the people leading the effort had more action, less dreaming"  attitudes.  She says changing our energy lifestyle is an attainable goal and believes the leaders following in their footprints are  progressive and up to the challenge.

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair runs through June 21-23.

Earlier this month, renewable energy was the focus of our Project Milwaukee: Power Switch, we explored how green sources might influence Wisconsin’s future energy mix.