By C. Russell Clark
Feb. 27, 2012. BOONE — On Thursday, March 1, Appalachian State University will host Energy Innovation in the High Country, a discussion forum seeking to bring together energy professionals, students, faculty, business owners and local community members to discuss clean energy solutions.
The discussion forum will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Broyhill Ballroom of the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center located at 775 Bodenheimer Dr. and serviced by the Gold Route of the AppalCART bus system.
The forum is being organized by Caitlin Stepp, Christina Wiegand, Alex Ransom and Allie Garrett; ASU students who are working in conjunction with Crystal Simmons, acting as a liason for Focus the Nation, a youth-focused 501(c) non-profit organization based out of Portland, Ore.
According to its website, Focus the Nation works with youth around the country to organize community discussions in order to further its mission of “accelerat[ing] our transformation to a clean energy future by fostering connections between generations, and empowering young people through education, civic engagement and action.”
Thursday’s event will feature introductory speeches by Ged Moody, Director of ASU’s Sustainability Department and Brian Crutchfield, Director of Sustainable Development for the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO), folllowed by a series of panels and “breakout” sessions focusing on specific aspects of clean energy.
Stepp, a senior double-major at ASU and member of the university’s Renewable Energy Initiative (ASU REI), said, “the panel will introduce people to the topics but the forum’s agenda will be facilitated through a choice of concurrent breakout sessions, which are small group discussions.”
“This will let us get people focused in on topics they are interested in and have a more intimate dialogue,” said Stepp. “Instead of people just preaching to you the whole time, we want this to be like a conversation.”
According to Stepp the topics and faciliators of the sessions will be: appropriate technology with Dr. Brian Raichle, project planning with Dr. Jim Houser, financing and ownership with Rio Tazewell and community engagement with Quint David.
Tazewell, Director of Outreach and Education for the Appalachian Institute of Renewable Energy (AIRE), said, “In my session I’ll be talking about different strategies that are being employed around the country to affordably finance solar [power], in addition to talking about the tax equity model that AIRE uses.”
According to Tazewell, AIRE is a 501(c) non-profit that uses a tax-credit based model to develop non-profit-for-profit partnerships in financing renewable energy projects such as the installation of 42 solar panels at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, North Carolina.
“I would also like to talk about the barriers that are in place politically and institutionally in general that really make it hard for communities to invest in renewable energy in a cost-effective way,” said Tazewell.
Photos by C. Russell Clark.