28th Annual Midwest Renewable Energy Fair Underway

Second Energy Fair Planned For Minnesota In September

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The 28th annual Midwest Renewable Energy Fair gets underway Friday in Custer, Wisconsin, east of Stevens Point.

For the first time, organizers also have a second Energy Fair planned in early September for St. Paul, Minnesota.

Nick Hylla, executive director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, said the expansion reflects the growing public interest in alternative sources of power.

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“There is a widespread, mass adoption of renewable energy in all sectors. In 2015 and 2016 more solar and wind energy was put onto the grid than any other energy source … We are part of a nationwide revolution moving toward a clean energy economy,” Hylla said.

Hylla said St. Paul was chosen for the new fair in part because of the Minnesota state government’s support for renewable energy.

Each year the energy fair in Custer draws more than 13,000 people.

The keynote speaker Saturday night is J.B. Straubel, the co-founder and chief technical officer of Tesla Motors.

Friday afternoon’s keynote speaker is Erica Mackie, the CEO of GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit company that installs solar energy systems for low-income people.

“Folks who would be considered as living on lower incomes in fact are often really environmental in their decisions because they are the ones who have been breathing dirty air or have neighborhoods that are crisscrossed by highways,” Mackie said.

The company uses what Mackie calls a “barn raising” approach for its installations.

“Having grown up in Michigan, when you need to get something done, bring a potluck dish and roll up your sleeves and get it done. That’s our model,” Mackie said. “Why don’t we ask our neighbors, and ask the kid down the street that needs a job, and we all come out together and as a community and build solar on folks’ rooftops?”

Other keynote speakers include author and journalist Kari Lydersen, two-time Emmy winning filmmaker Jonathan Seaborn, farmer and blogger Chris Holman, and Jason Eden, director of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance.

The fair also features more than 200 exhibitors and 250 workshops, and a clean transportation show that focuses on electric cars.