I-Renew Executive Director Announces Renewable Energy Workshops and Tour

October 1, 2009 by  
Filed under 2009, Blog, Environment, Front Page, Iowa, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind

Dennis Pottratz leads I-Renew's solar photovoltaic workshop in 2008. Photo: Courtesy of I-Renew

Dennis Pottratz leads I-Renew's solar photovoltaic workshop in 2008. Photo: Courtesy of I-Renew

Mike Carberry, Executive Director of Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew), has only been on the job four months, but he’s already hosted the organization’s state-wide, annual conference and is planning four significant renewable energy events before the end of the year.

Carberry has long been an environmental activist. “I’ve been a professional environmental advocate for about five years, with a background in business. I came into the environmental advocacy field professionally after being an antiques dealer for ten years,” he says.

What prompted him to leave a thriving business and enter into the often tenuous world of nonprofit work, I want to know.

“I read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, about five years ago, and realized that what I was doing wasn’t enough. Even though I had been an environmental volunteer and an environmental and political activist, I wasn’t doing enough to change the world,” Carberry says. “I was starting to think about legacy and what would be on my tombstone — that I was a great antique dealer? a nice guy? a spiffy dresser?” He chuckles, but then gets serious. “I wanted to know, Could I do something that would effect change in the world and turn my passion into a vocation? That’s when I decided  that I would make a change to something that I thought was really important.”

Mike Carberry, Executive Director of I-Renew. Photo: Courtesy Mike Carberry

Mike Carberry, Executive Director of I-Renew. Photo: Courtesy Mike Carberry

Carberry’s passion and enthusiasm are infectious (like the H1N1 he’s recovering from as I speak with him by phone). After doing concurrent advocacy work for several nonprofits on a part-time basis, he learned about an opportunity to work full-time for one of the causes he holds dear. He was hired at I-Renew this past May.

“I-Renew is an educational nonprofit, and our mission is to promote the sustainable production and use of energy here in the state of Iowa. Renewable energy has been a very hot topic in the last few years, and what we are trying to do at I-Renew is make renewable energy a reality for folks. Some people think a solar panel or a wind turbine will be too complicated for their home or business. They don’t know the technology. They don’t know the price. They don’t know anything about it.

“What our workshops facilitate is basic knowledge to the average citizen on what renewable energy is, how they can possibly plug into it. We provide day-long workshops that are very extensive in basic knowledge on how to evaluate your situation in your home, whether you might be a candidate for renewable energy, or what to look at, what questions to ask, how to find a dealer. There will be some basic laws in physics of what renewable energy is. What is solar power? What is wind power? How is it measured? What are the thermal dynamics of it? That sort of knowledge will be covered in all of the workshops, whether that be the solar thermal or the solar photovoltaic (PV), or the residential wind workshop. In general, those are the things we hope to convey to people.

“These workshops are a good place to start if someone just wants general knowledge on these subjects for their home use. It’s a good thing for them to get involved in a workshop.”

But the workshops are hardly limited to residential participants.

Carberry goes on to say that there are many career opportunities available in renewable energy. “You can sell systems, you can install systems, you can repair systems. These workshops provide a nice overview of all three of these technologies that would be helpful to anyone thinking about a career in renewable energy.”

The workshops are not intended to teach installation techniques or to provide advanced training, however. “We have some pending grants that we are waiting to hear about. If those grants come through, we will be adding more workshops at an intermediate and advanced level next year,” Carberry says.

I-Renew’s fall workshops are briefly described below. For more information or to pre-register, contact the I-Renew office at 319-338-1076 or visit the Iowa Renewable Energy Association website. Pre-registration is required, and class size is limited. Fees, where applicable, are posted on the I-Renew website.

Solar Tour at Prairiewoods, October 3

This Saturday, October 3, I-Renew is co-sponsoring the Linn and Johnson Counties SOLAR TOUR. At Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 East Boyson Road, Hiawatha, IA 52233 (map), tours will be held at 30-minute intervals (from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ) and will include the residence trombe wall, the solar hot water system in the guest house, the solar photovoltaic system, which powers the hermitages, and the latest addition, a 7-kilowatt, grid-tied, photovoltaic array.
Also featured is Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Road NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the Don and Lois Laughlin home, 827 E. Church St., Iowa City (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and the RJ Construction office, 637 16th St., Marion (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Call 319-338-1076 for more details.

Residential Solar Hot Water Workshop, October 24

October 24th, 2009, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, I-Renew’s Residential Solar Hot Water Workshop will be held at Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Road NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403. Attendees will learn the fundamentals of solar liquid collector systems for domestic hot water. Illustrations and discussion will also be presented on how space- or pool heating can be incorporated into these systems. Instructor Jeff Benz of The Solar Consultants brings more than 30 years of expertise in solar and renewable heating; he installed his first system in 1977. Jeff has been a consistent leader in the industry and has continued to help people understand how conventional and renewable energy systems are used to heat water for daily, domestic, hot-water and space-heating systems.

Solar Photovoltaic Workshop, November 14

Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center will again host an I-Renew event when the Solar Photovoltaic Workshop occurs on November 14th, 2009, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Prairiewoods is located at 120 East Boyson Road, Hiawatha, IA 52233 (map). The presentation will feature the fundamentals of solar, solar module specifics, inverters, racks, load analysis, and system sizing, permits, and safety. The workshop will emphasize grid-tie systems as opposed to off-grid systems. Students will leave the class with a good understanding of how they can make solar work for their home or business. This class will be taught by Dennis Pottratz of GoSolar, Iowa’s only nationally certified solar electric installer. Dennis has owned and operated a full-service solar installation company in Decorah since 1996.

Residential Wind Workshop, December 12

Attendees will leave the Residential Wind Workshop with the working knowledge to evaluate whether residential wind is a realistic option to fill all or part of their residential energy needs. Participants will learn whether their site is right for wind energy, what size turbine they need, what the wind patterns are in their area, and more. They will learn how to size and select a wind turbine, evaluate which turbine to purchase, and learn how the turbine is installed. The instructor will also talk about wind energy incentives, grants, and tax incentives available to users of wind energy.

Instructor James McCain has received his CERET degree from Madison Area Technical College. He has attended MREA and SEI’s training workshops as well as other product specific training programs. He is the owner of Innovative Kinetics, a Des Moines company that specializes in small wind energy systems.

This workshop will also take place at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 East Boyson Road, Hiawatha, IA 52233 (map).

For More Information

Please visit www.irenew.org or call 319-338-1076 for more details. Space is limited, and registration is currently being accepted on a first come, first serve basis. There is no charge for the tour, but workshops have a class fee.
Julia Wasson
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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