The Spark

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Richard Perez

The sun's power shines on us all. The understanding of this power is transmitted from person to person as a spark. I have felt this spark jump between the eyes of solar-powered people. Thousands of sparks massed together at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair on this summer's solstice for a solar-powered explosion. The knowledge and understanding shared was incredible.

Above: sixteen 63 Watt PV modules on a Wattsun tracker. This array was part of a 120 Volt DC/ac system. Behind the array is Lake MI Wind & Sun's Jacobs feeding the demonstration home.

The Fair

The Midwest Renewable Energy Fair at Amherst, Wisconsin is an educational experience. Over the three fair days, some four to six thousand people attended. They came from far and wide to learn about using renewable energies in their lives and homes. There were 51 different workshop topics. These workshop sessions were like a four year course at Renewable Energies University compressed into a single weekend.

During the three day course of the Fair, 135 workshop meetings took place. Attendance at these workshops was heavy, from 25 to over 100 attendees per workshop. These workshops covered virtually every aspect of renewable energy. The workshops were conducted by hands-on people with years of practical experience in the subject. The amount of information changing brains was staggering.

In addition to commercial booths selling RE equipment, the MREF Folks set up a model home. This model home demonstrated the latest in thermally efficient building techniques. It employed a solar hot water heater, a PV array, and also used power from the Fair's big 24 Volt Jacobs wind machine. The house was divided into four areas. A bathroom displayed a low flush toilet and low voltage water pumps. A living room, complete with TV, VCR running energy videos, a computer, and printer was powered from the system. A kitchen with a locally made 24 Volt super efficient refrigerator/freezer. A power room full of all home power type goodies like batteries, inverters, controls and instruments. All rooms were lit by super-efficient fluorescent lamps. Hell, I wanted to ship the model home to Agate Flat and move in! The model home's Head Worker was Kurt Nelson

Above: the solar home at MREF '91 demonstrating solar electricity, wind power, solar hot water, and super efficient appliances.

who gave two entire weeks of his life to the project (and without pay I might add). The local high-school shop class also helped with construction of the model home. Materials and equipment were donated by local businesses and individuals. It was a big hit with fair goers.

This year's Midwest Renewable Energy Fair was even better organized and attended than last year's. The Fair organizers put heart and soul into making the fair a high point of everyone's summer. I saw questions that had festered for years answered in a twinkling. I saw smiling people carrying lights, and inverters, and panels, and wind turbines out to their cars. I listened to solar powered music made by solar powered humans. I had too much fun. I saw the spark everywhere.

The Solar Technology Institute (STI)

We (Karen and I) shared a booth with the nonprofit Solar Technology Institute. Here, we spent many hours discussing solar education and solar projects for the developing world. In Ken, Johnny, Peter, and Linda of STI, we have found friends who are dedicating their lives to spreading the spark. These guys not only run the best hands-on, solar education courses in the world, but also do vast amounts of good work with solar power in developing countries.

Karen and I have accepted positions on the Advisory Board of the Solar Technology Institute. I will be teaching, with Ken and Johnny, the advanced PV course at STI from 23 September to 3 October 1991. We are very proud and pleased to be able to donate our energies to this fine project. So all you PV types, I'm looking forward to some great sessions with you at STI this fall. See page 49 of this issue for the details.

Above: the big Jacobs supplied much of the power used at the fair's workshops. The tower is eighty feet tall. Below: Ken Olson (center) and Johnny Weiss (right) of

Jordan folks not only attended the Fair, they also brought their solar car, the Sunseeker, with them. Jordan continues with their fine renewable energy and electric vehicle programs. I spent some time crawling around their solar car and was amazed at the level of technology displayed there. By the time Detroit gets their EV act together, the Jordan crew will be flying around in PV-powered heliocopters.

Jordan Energy Institute

Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Box 249, 116 Cross Street, Amherst, WI 54406 • 715-824-5166

Solar Technology Institute, POB 1115, Carbondale, CO 81623-1115 • 303-963-0715

Jordan Energy Institute, 155 Seven Mile Road, Comstock Park, MI 49321 • 616-784-7595

Solar Solutions (PV Education Kit), 1230 East Honey Creek Road, Oregon, IL 61061 • 815-732-7332

Solar Educators

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl of Solar Solutions were displaying their PV education kit. This kit consists of a PV module mounted and wired on a plexiglass case. There are also meters and terminals for various experiments to be performed with the PV module. The kit was very well constructed with all wiring visible for children to see. The manual and lesson plan were extensive and understandable. The kit alone is good enough, but coupled with the manual and lessons, the kit is educational dynamite. Robert and Sonia have tried their kit on fourth to sixth grades with amazing results. Kids learn the concept of solar power quickly when it is presented in easy to understand ways like the Vogl's PV kit. I can only hope that educational systems around the nation have the common good sense to use kits like this one in their schools.

New Products at MREF

I saw several new products displayed for the first time. bergey

The new Wattsun tracker was used on two large PV wind arrays. Chad Lampkin of Michigan Energy Works ad mounted sixteen Kyocera 63 Watt modules on a Wattsun, dual axis tracker. The folks at Midway Labs operated their new concentrator PV modules (160 suns!) mounted on a

Wattsun dual-axis tracker. This new electric tracker is fascinating to watch. It uses 10 to 20 Watt-hours of power daily to keep the modules exactly perpendicular to the sun. And I mean exactly (definitely within 0.25° on both the NS and EW axes). The Wattsun tracker uses two electric linear actuators (employed on satellite dishes) to track the sun.

Being there...

The atmosphere was charged with discussion. A giant network of renewable minds exchanged data as fast as synapses would allow. People walked out with RE products bought on fair specials. We only got rained on once. I don't know when I've had a better time.


Author: Richard Perez, C/O Home Power, POB 130, Hornbrook, CA 96044 • 916-475-3179


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