Take your Business Off-Grid, or Become a Net Producer of Energy: Learn How at the MREA’s Renewable Energy Fair

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All businesses have “variable expenses” related to energy, right?

Not always. There’s nothing in the IRS tax code preventing businesses from investing in renewable energy systems (and energy conservation/efficiency) that allow these businesses to operate more efficiently, sustainably, and green. In fact, often there are tax credits and other incentives to encourage these kinds of investments. Some businesses, like ours, generate a surplus of energy, essentially wiping out energy costs not to mention cutting carbon emissions (more on this another day). Taking such an approach to business, boosts our bottom line profitability.

Around the Summer Solstice every year (this June 20 – 22 in 2008), the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, or MREA, hosts the world’s largest and longest-running “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair” in Custer, Wisconsin, a fifteen minute drive from Stevens Point in the central part of the state. It’s one of the places where we learned the basics to transform our business, Inn Serendipity, into an independent power producer by harvesting the wind and solar energy with a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine and .7 kW photovoltaic system, respectively.

More than 18,000 fair goers, exhibitors and leading renewable energy experts gather under big top tents for novice-to-expert-categorized workshop presentations, talk with renewable energy system dealers in the exhibition area — filled with plenty of wind turbines, PV modules and biodiesel processors — and get the latest on pending federal policy implications related to funding the systems that will largely eliminate the need to ever send a check to a utility company. In our case, our public electric utility pays us for our net surplus electricity generation.

The MREA’s Renewable Energy Fair got its start in 1990, after a catalyzing question was raised by HomePower magazine publisher Richard Perez: What ever happened to those energy fairs of the late 1970s? “We were an action-oriented, community-based group of homesteaders with an environmental bent, often living out VW vans with everything plugged into a cigarette lighter, powered by a solar electric module on the roof,” chuckles Mick Sagrillo, one of the MREA’s founders and current president, explaining their humble beginnings. The resulting Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair has spawned an energy revolution in the Midwest.

The fair takes place on the grounds surrounding the ReNew the Earth Institute, headquarters for the MREA that features several wind turbines, numerous solar electric PV arrays, a masonry heater and solar thermal systems — among many other things. It’s all about walking the talk here. Just about anyone you’ll strike up a conversation with is doing something related to sustainable living. The entire event is practically waste free; “disposables” are composted because they’re made from corn. When the grid went down in a storm several years ago, the energy fair kept running on its back-up batteries and renewable energy systems.

Besides the workshops offered as a part of the fair admission (entrance to the fair is free for MREA members), there are sustainable food tents, a kid’s tent, musical performances, keynotes and additional, more intensive and longer workshops. This year we’ll be presenting one such intensive workshop related to topics from our ECOpreneuring book on Saturday morning of the fair.

So, consider planning your summer travels to Wisconsin for the MREA’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, and enjoy the advantages of transforming your business into a net power producer (or take it off grid). There’s economic freedom in meeting your own energy needs with renewable energy. Your wise business investments can make it possible today.


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