By Amanda Martinez | The Rio Grande Sun

The Second Annual Renewable Energy Festival, April 20-21, at Northern New Mexico College, will bring together local activists, professionals, educators, entertainers and the public, to learn about how they can move away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.

The Festival will feature 12 educational seminars, free food and entertainment, an exhibition of booths and demonstrations by local vendors, as well as two keynote speakers.

“This is a good place to start learning, so you can be part of this transition (to renewable energy),” Luis Torres, the Festival’s lead organizer, said. “In other words, be part of what is going to happen. Don’t let it happen to you. Be an active participate in the transition.”

A team of 10 organizers began planning the Festival at the beginning of the year and split the work into different task sectors, including promotion, entertainment, student engagement and special projects.

The Festival will begin on April 20, with an opening reception at the Nick Salazar Center for the Arts Theatre.

Festival co-organizer Roger Montoya, the artistic director and co-founder of Moving Arts Española, said the opening will feature a line-up of diverse, multi-cultural and intergenerational dancers and performers, as well a film montage that highlights existing and functioning renewable energy sources throughout the region.

“It will really set the tone of the program,” he said. “(Last year), it was just art and everyone was happy. I wanted to make a connection to the land and what is at stake.”

Solar

Torres said one big difference between this year’s and last year’s Festival will be the content and quality of the educational seminars.

“Last year, I said I wanted to have educational seminars on the subject of renewable energy, but I didn’t really know what the heck I was talking about,” he said. “In the period between last year and this year, I have learned quite a bit.”

Seminar topics will include solar panel systems, electric cars, photovoltaics and energy-efficient building techniques, amongst others.

“If you come to the seminar, what you’ll get is an introduction to that specific subject,” Torres said. “If you come to the seminar on rooftop solar, let’s say, or solarizing you home, you aren’t going to learn how to solarize your home right off, but you will get a very good taste as to what is involved.”

Weatherization

Northern Library Director and Festival co-organizer Amy Ortiz said she has always been interested in renewable energy, but becoming a first-time homeowner inspired her to learn more.

She purchased a trailer about three years ago and when she opened a wall to install a pellet stove, she was surprised at how little material separated her from the outside elements.

As she learned about home maintenance, she wanted to know what it would take to make her home more energy-efficient.

This is when she began learning about home weatherization, insulation and stopping air leaks and cracks.

“I got a mortgage and put myself into debt for this,” she said. “So the more I can learn about all of this, the more comfortable I can be with my decision. The more it will be an investment for the future and not a cardboard box.”

Festival attendees will have an opportunity to learn about this topic during a seminar taught by Architect Joaquin Karcher, the owner of the Taos-based company Zero E Design.

Air leaks account for about 30 percent of an average home’s heat loss, he said.

He will speak about building ultra-efficient homes and changes people can do to their homes to make them more energy efficient.

“What we are trying to do is minimize or eliminate fossil fuels in homes, so that heating and cooling can be done, basically, not burning anything,” he said.

Funding

Torres said the event will cost about $10,000 to put on.

The money is a mix of cash and in-kind donations.

This year’s sponsors include Northern, New Mexico Conservation Voters, Moving Arts Española, Rio Arriba County and the Jemez Mountains Electric Co-op.

While the Festival will be packed with activities, Torres said he hopes people take advantage of the full gamut of programming and events.

“There is going to be a lot of follow-up to this festival,” he said. “This transformation that I am talking about is happening throughout the country.”

For more information, visit the Festival’s website at www.renewableenergyactionnm.org or send email to renewableenergyaction@gmail.com.