September 8th, 2012 Ozarks New Energy Barn Warming: Renewable Adventures Liam Dillow
The Crower College MARET Center is often asked to participate in local and regional alternative energy activities. We were recently invited to participate in the Ozark New Energy Barn Warming event held in Bois D’Arc, Missouri. What follows is the account of the event by one of our solar students, Liam Dillow, who participated.
Following the crazy, wind-gusting downpour of Friday night, the sun rose the next morning on one of those gorgeous days of perfect weather that bless Southwest Missouri in the closing months of brutal heat as summer tiptoes off stage in anticipation of cooler fall months to come. I was thinking all of this to myself as I pulled up to the MARET Center Saturday afternoon.
Crowder instructor and renewable energy guru Joel Lamson was already there, rigging up the solar trailer, hard at work even after a power outage at his house following the previous night’s storm. “If the power’s still out when we get back, I’m taking this baby back home with me!” he half-joked as we loaded up thermal panel equipment and prepared to hit the road.
After a road trip east down I-44, followed by several turns down country roads-- at least one of them being in the wrong direction-- we found ourselves on a country road, stopping to ask an elderly woman strolling along with a bright smile if she’d like a ride. She declined with a wide grin on her face. Little did I know that later, that same woman would be serving me a delicious home-cooked meal.
The event was just beginning to kick into gear as we arrived, the various vendors setting up tables and equipment on the grassy avenue adjoining the barn and home of Dan and Margy Chiles. There were plenty of friendly greetings between Joel and other long-time friends. I myself was something of a newcomer to this group, but after finding myself warming up to the glow of friendly greetings and “How have you been’s?”, I began to recognize the people behind this event as folks who share a certain bond—no matter if they’ve just met today or known each other for years.
But, business first: we got down to the hard work of setting up our solar thermal pump and PV panel demonstrations (soon swallowed up by the tree shade), remembered all the things we forgot (camera, brochures), and wondered: of all the demonstrators, why did we get picked to be closest to the dumpster?
Soon, however, we were busy as bees showing off our demonstration units. One minute I was chatting about how the solar thermal panel works(with Joel handling all of the tough questions, of course), and then at some point I looked around and realized that we were surrounded by a small horde of eager listeners. Joel made good use of his mental encyclopedia of knowledge of all things renewable to anyone interested in learning more.
The event had over 200 volunteers, visitors, elected officials, vendors, and well-wishers, according to Dan Chiles’ web site. All proceeds went to Ozark New Energy. The main attraction of the event was the home of Dan and Margy Chiles, Dan being a former member of the Springfield City Council and local businessman. The home consisted of a large barn covered with installed photovoltaic solar panels, and a 2400 square-foot, 3 story home. The home was in its final stages of construction, and while touring the home, I imagined it to be something like visiting the set of the television show “Extreme Home Makeover” a day or two before the homeowners get back from Disneyland. The home’s features include passive lighting, insulating concrete walls-- which are claimed to be tornado resistant—and a cistern for the collection of rain water for use in irrigation. Dan hopes to attain LEED certification of his home and expects it to be a net zero energy home. The house features an interesting mix of wood and concrete, the centerpiece being a beautiful wood mosaic sculpture affixed over the entry, done by local artist JD Harris, with several balconies and an open air roof offering views of the lake below. The house was designed by Jennifer Wilson of nForm Architecture.
There was plenty of delicious food, drinks, and even a live jazz band on the portico (plugging their instruments into renewable energy, I presume). As I made a tour of the home, I noticed the lines of geothermal water hoses through open spaces in the ceiling. On the lower floor, a man was giving a presentation about the future of renewable energy as the crowd engaged in enthusiastic discussion.
As the day darkened and the crowd wound down, we packed up our things and headed back down the road. Not bad for a full day’s volunteering. Luckily, Joel’s power was back on at home, the trailer being saved for its primary use of powering the Crowder soccer field scoreboard and PA system. We had a great time and shared a lot of information—but perhaps most importantly, we shared a sort of companionship with folks from all over with an interest in renewable energy.
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