HEA educates public at annual energy fair

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct the date of HEA’s next energy fair. 

The Homer Electric Association (HEA) held its Energy and Conservation Fair Saturday at Kenai Middle School in Kenai this, November 1. This is the event’s sixth annual installment.

HEA’s spokesperson Joe Gallagher described the purpose of the fair.

“What we do is invite local vendors who are involved in any form of energy conservation,” he said. “We offer them a spot at our fair where they can share information with our members on how they can conserve energy at home.”

This year 27 vendors arrived to set up booths in the school gymnasium, where they distributed pamphlets, demonstrated products, and answered questions from the fair’s visitors. The groups offering information at the fair were a mix of businesses, non-profits, conservation groups, and Homer Electric representatives.

Kate Schadle , a social services assistant for the Kenaitze Indian tribe, gave out information about the tribe’s energy assistance program, which gives funds to lower-income families to help with their energy expenses.

“We partner with the state of Alaska, which offers the same type of program, except theirs is for all the community,” Schadle, who was representing both the Kenaitze and the state.

While some assistance programs, like Schadle’s, offer direct assistance for paying energy bills, others help those hoping to lower their energy costs by refurbishing their homes. Markie Shiflea of the Alaska Community Development program spoke about her organization’s weatherization program, which distributes state housing funds to low-to-medium income level families hoping to weather-proof their homes.

“We do all of the testing on the home and contract out the work so it’s free to the home owner,” she said. After the Community Development program has done tests, Shiflea said her group uses an algorithm to find “the most cost-effective things we can do to help the home, whether it be air-sealing, insulation, weather-stripping, or skirting.”

“A lot of times people say they want new windows, but windows are expensive,” said Shiflea. “They eat up the money right away. There are things above windows that we can do first.”

Derrick Marcorelle represented ReGroup, which he described as a “citizen-based recycling program on the central peninsula.”

“The Borough provides the recycling opportunities, and we educate the public on how to use those programs,” he said.

“I think we change a few minds here,” said Marcorelle of the fair. “A lot of people learn how to do things, where they can recycle, and what they can do.”

The organizations encouraging visitors to save energy included not only non-profits, but businesses as well.

David Badger, lighting specialist of Brown Electric Supplies, came to answer questions about his speciality.

All the demonstration lightbulbs he brought were LEDs, “except for one incandescent bulb to show people the difference,” he said.

“For energy savings, you look at a 10 watt LED, like this, and it replaces a 60 watt incandescent. So you’ve just dropped a sixth of the energy usage,” said Badger.

“It gives you the same amount of light. In all reality, this (the LED) probably puts out a little more.”

Other businesses at the fair demonstrated energy-saving doors and windows and wireless home electric control systems.

Outside the gathering of exhibitors in the gym, the school lobby was designated the Kid’s Zone, offering children energy conservation-themed games and a chance to interact with the fair’s suited mascot, a human-sized lightbulb named LED Lucy.

The afternoon event of the fair occurred in the Kid’s Zone: the award ceremony of HEA’s student contest.

The contest, open to students was open to students throughout the Peninsula in grades 1-8, featured different activities for different age levels.

Kindergartners could enter a coloring contest. Students in second and third grades created acrostic poems from the words “Energy Efficiency.”

Fifth and sixth graders created energy-themed songs and board games, while seventh and eighth graders addressed a persuasive writing prompt that asked them to imagine themselves as governors of Alaska, delivering speeches on energy.

The Fair culminated in a reading by the winning students of their work.

Seventh grader Dominic Alioto of IDEA Homeschool stepped into the role of governor of Alaska, asking citizens to save energy in order to preserve the State’s natural environment.

After the end of Saturday’s event, many of the vendors prepared to travel to Homer, where HEA is conducting a second Energy and Conservation fair on Saturday Nov. 8.

Reach Ben Boettger at Ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com


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