Wisconsin Renewable Energy Fair – 2017

Ellen, Zach and Kate Hetzer

On Saturday June 17th my wife Kate and I took our bikes to Stevens Point and met up with my son Zach and his wife Ellen. From nearby Plover we travelled the Tomorrow River trail west until we came to Custer Road. We went north through the tiny Hamlet of Custer, crossed Highway 10, rode through a nice subdivision that led to Pliska Road and the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Fair. There was a parking area just for bikes. The sky was clear and blue, the wind was light and spider wort and lobellia were in bloom everywhere.

This was the 28th annual energy fair and although solar, chemical, wind, biofuel and geothermal energy methods were on prominent display the overlying theme of the fair is smart energy use and self-sustainability.  There were many great ideas for natural soil enrichment (composting, natural enrichment), gardening ideas and safe methods for pest and invasives control. I enjoyed the samples of dips, sauces and especially the maple syrup.

Tesla at a charging station

Speaking of food though, there were some nice food carts featuring Jamaican, Indian and down home American cuisine. There was also ice cream and kettle corn. Central Waters brewery from nearby Amherst offered $3 pints of several kinds of beer and you got to keep the glass. I purchased a bottle of the hard cider fermented especially for the energy fair by a vineyard in Ripon. The beverage counter was conveniently located near the open-air seminars and the entertainment tent. Also nearby was the silent auction tent where for $100 you could buy a raffle ticket giving you a chance to win a new Tesla. (I built my own Tesla at the Tesla motors website and it would cost me $166,000.) Charging stations were everywhere and obviously many people have saved a lot of money with the knowledge they’ve gleaned from attending these fairs because there were several Teslas in attendance. In fact, there was probably every kind of electric car on today’s market sitting at one of the charging stations.

Engine fuel still

For most people that drive cars that use liquid fuels like gasoline or propane there were the vendors touting biofuels. Biodigesters and your basic moonshine stills were on sale. The guy that sold the small stainless steel still was too busy explaining how to convert a gasoline engine to an ethanol engine that I didn’t get a chance to ask how he converted his lawn mower. Crazy TV Lenny’s electric motor assist bicycles were at the fair and available for test rides.

Refurbished water pumping windmill

A small number of energy efficient window vendors, energy efficient builders were nestled among the solar panel and pellet stove dealers. I enjoyed talking to talking to the low-tech windmill restoration guys since I have a fondness for windmills from my youth and my brother-in-law has one that is in good shape but not working on his farm in Reedsburg. A low cost ($6000) hybrid geothermal heating and cooling system that uses your own well water sounded pretty good until I thought about discharging 2 gallons a minute of water onto the ground. (If I had a pond I, might reconsider.)

After a few hours, we were ready to return to Plover but there was a problem. My son Zach had a flat tire on his bike. He had a spare inner tube and a tire pump but he had somehow lost a part for his tire pump. Fortunately Crazy TV Lenny was there, with not only with his e-bikes, but also with a tire pump. It was a 26 mile round trip bike ride and my derriere said it wished it had only been a 20 mile trip but it had been a gorgeous day.