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Environmental Blog Post 2 - By David Dwyer

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Hello Indivisibles !!

In 2003, my wife and partner, Dr. Toni Bark, decided together to change our lives.

Our purpose was to do our part to affect the local and global environments in an unequivocally positive direction, humble as our efforts may prove to be. We knew that our lives and careers would soon have to stand up against the close scrutiny and critical thinking of our children and their peers all around the world. Ours was a commitment to each other, to our kids, and to all.

We began a new life, with environmental activism one of the essential, non-negotiable elements. Our efforts included opening an environmental products and services store on Greenwood, building a new home in the historic district, and achieving the LEEP AP designation as members of the newly formed United States Green Building Council.

As we set out to design our home, we learned that, in the life of an average building, about twenty per cent of the overall energy used are incorporated in the materials, labor, and processes involved in construction, leaving eighty per cent of the energy directed to the heating, cooling, lighting, living in and maintenance of the building.

Upon learning this, we immediately entered the world of renewable energy as an essential part of our commitment to our kids and to the world, starting right here.

Our environmental mission found many paths, many directions. There will be much more about this in future posts. But the path that brought me to a small classroom in rural Ohio was the path to clean electric power.

Toni and I had determined that non-polluting electric power generation was the single most important element for the future of the earth environment as we know it. In order to advance this ideal, we entered the solar power business-among others- in 2003.

Last week I had the privilege of attending professional education classes in a very small town in rural Ohio, at the foot of the Appalachians. This, to advance the mission we had begun twenty years ago in Evanston.

Two full days, ten hours each. Volts, Amps, Power and Ohms.

What are the most recent changes to the National Electric Code? What must be done to conform? How would these changes be applied in the field? How would the thousands of electrical inspectors respond to the changes? How will they affect citizen safety?

These are the typical questions dealt with inside electrical continuing education all across the country, for as long as there has been licensing and legal risk in the power industry, beginning in the early 1900’s and through the early 2000’s.

But since 2003, all this has changed.

The first class begins at 7a sharp after the required coffee and donuts. No change here. Then a brief process discussion, followed by individual and company introductions. I am in the front row and the last to introduce myself.

“I am David Dwyer, a licensed electrician and general contractor in Ohio and in the Chicago area. My specialization is in the field of renewable energy, specifically solar electric power generation, battery storage and micro grid development”.

After a long moment of silence, the questions to me-framed as statements of fact- begin.

“I hear that solar doesn’t work outside of places like California and Arizona.”

“ So-and-so tells me that these ‘solar systems’ catch on fire and the fire departments don’t know how to put them out.”

“ They say that you never get your money back, that solar and wind are just a scam.”

This is new. Just two or three years ago, none of these statements and none of this interest was in evidence in recertification classes. Clean power was kind of a joke in these classes. Now, in this class, the talk about solar power, battery storage, and wind power goes on until the mid-morning break. Then, the solar talk continues, woven into the NEC discussions, through the lunch hour and through the end of the class at 5pm. And as we review the EV class for tomorrow, my hope for strong environmental action in Evanston is rekindled.

This electrical code class in rural Ohio brought to me the strongest sense of hope I have experienced since entering the renewable energy industry, in Evanston, in 2003.

At that time, I could not have found 5 electricians-or civilians-interested in clean energy and solar power in all of Cook County. Last week, we had twenty power professionals in rural Ohio not only interested, but set on immediate action.

In another dramatic change to the electrical status quo, the second day of license recertification would be devoted entirely to electric vehicles and the electrical requirements for the construction of charging stations. This is a first. What was a joke just a few years ago is now an integral part of the National Electric Code.

All of my classmates finished both classes with an intention to make solar electric power part of their ongoing local businesses and part of their lives. Several told me that they were going to put solar power into their own homes, hunting cabins and in their businesses. Some were going to buy electric cars and trucks. Some would move toward building auto charging stations as an exclusive specialization. And while it was clear that I was on the opposite end of the political spectrum, here at the foot of the Appalachians, the politics around clean energy never crept into any of our discussions. All of our eyes were on the clean power Prize, as the value to the community and nation is now quietly but clearly understood. All were in agreement. Their collective interest gained real momentum in these classes, and will flourish in the weeks and years to come, across the southeast and the entire country.

My colleagues, several of whom are former coal miners, live and work in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. They will now bring the solar/clean power message directly to their families, friends and their customers. This new, rural enlightenment and subsequent alignment with real environmental science is truly a paradigm shift in both grass roots and industry thinking. Unlike their counterparts in cities like Chicago and Evanston, they will bring simultaneous action with the environmental message.

This is real environmental activism from the ground up. Tax credits, rebates, and other financial benefits are helpful, but what I experienced in rural Ohio is the most dramatic indication that the sea change we as environmentalists had long hoped for, is truly underway.

There is still much work to do here, but the social/environmental tide is turning in favor of our children and the nation. Let’s get to work here in Evanston, Indivisibles.

Next time: “ Hey! You moved my stuff.” Environmental action at the Evanston beaches.

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