SolWest farewell letter
In the fall of 1998, four renewable energy enthusiasts met to plan
the organization we knew as EORenew (Eastern Oregon Renewable
Energies Nonprofit, Inc), and the first SolWest Fair. EORenews
first office was a donated closet, from which calls and emails went
out all over the west to organize our first, two-day event in 1999.
With the generous help of Home Power Magazine, contact lists and
advertising were turned into fifty-one exhibitors, twentynine
workshops, and a host of exciting activities including Humans'
First Electric Migration (Bob Maynards electric truck,
which drove on solar power alone from Klamath Falls to SolWest in
John Day). Fifteen hundred people showed up for the event. The
next year, our organization moved into a real downtown office
(courtesy of Jerry Franklin/Eastern Oregon Realty), and in 2002,
SolWest expanded to three days. We began hosting hands-on workshops
to train homeowners and solar installers. Our workshops added solar
electric systems to the fairgrounds in 2000, and to our office
rooftop the next year. This work expanded opportunities for solar in
Oregon, as we used our arrays and our influence to leverage passage
and compliance with the Oregon Net Metering Bill HB 3219, and the
Solar LRT installer license SB932.
The years passed quickly with many activities for our small
organization: home tours, classes for children and adults, projects
on homes and businesses, newsletters to our members. We answered
several queries a week for technical and sourcing information.
Renewable energy gained credibility in the schools and community. We
taught energy workshops at Outdoor School each spring, and as a guest
instructor in the classroom each winter.
Then the economic downturn hit, and the housing industry crashed.
The modest streams of income we had cobbled together to support our
programs dwindled to a trickle. Only the dedication of our volunteers
and supporters kept SolWest going as the solar industry struggled to
regain its footing, and many of our exhibitors just faded away. It
was you, yes you: SolWest presenters, exhibitors, volunteers, and you
folks that come to participate and make it all worthwhile; you were
the ones that kept SolWest going! There are too many of you to name
here (you may find a few of the highlights in the left-hand column),
but we appreciate each and every one of you, as you have each
contributed something vital to our success.
EORenew has, in a sense, already done our job: those who wished to
learn about Renewables and Energy Efficiency here in eastern Oregon
have taken advantage of the opportunity offered by SolWest, and
brought it into the mainstream. We are PROUD of what weve
accomplished! The results of our projects and SolWest events are a
visible, positive contribution to our region. Were the
little nonprofit that could. Fifteen years ago, when we started
SolWest Fair, they said we couldnt succeed. If someone had told
us that wed not only succeed, wed do it for fifteen
years, wed have jumped for joy! Its hard to be sad about
our nonprofit going away, when we see how much of a positive effect
Is it enough: have we achieved energy sustainability? No! Until
every home or commercial building is constructed with an eye to how
it fits into its communitys renewable energy plan, until every
person thinks about the energy required to fill their individual
needs, and tries to source that energy responsibly, we have not
reached our objective. Our hope is to reach that tipping
point where, because each of us does the best we can, we set an
example for our friends and neighbors, and the ripples of influence
spread out in concentric circles, wider and wider, until the demand
for sustainable energy is a universal, irresistible force around the world.
As our little nonprofit rides off into the sunset, we are handing
off SolWest to Oregon RuralAction.
Watch for folks wearing ORA tags at SolWest, where theyll be
exhibiting, presenting, and volunteering. ORA plans to take up where
we leave off, inspiring the transition to sustainable energy in an
ever wider area of the Inland Northwest. We wish them the best!