At the invitation of the Institute For Sustainable Communities, PlanItGreen team members who are involved in energy issues attended a "Turning Energy Data Into Action" workshop at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo.

The April 3-4 workshop was part of the Solar In Your Community initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Program. People from more NREL groupthan a dozen agencies across the U.S., including colleagues at the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability (formerly Environmental Control), attended.

“Building from and upon the work of PlanItGreen, we learned about resources, strategy, and how other communities have/are addressed/ing renewable energy use – with specific focus on solar energy,” said Kristin Carlson Vogen, President and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, who was part of the PlanItGreen team. “We had two one-on-one conversations with NREL consultants, which helped us build the vision for Oak Park and River Forest.”

In addition to Vogen, other PlanItGreen team members were SGA executive director Gary Cuneen, Village of Oak Park director of Public Works John Wielebnicki, and PlanItGreen solar energy consultant Mark Burger.

NRELThe presenters at the workshop “were some of the leading researchers at NREL involved in how to gather, assess and use energy data,” Burger said. “While the PlanItGreen group has been quite good at gathering data for its biannual report card, the workshop exposed them to a new dimension of sources to enhance their findings. They also did exercises on how to incorporate the data in planning and presentations to the public.”

Started in 1977, NREL is the nation’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.

Wielebnicki said the NREL could be a valuable resource for the Village of Oak Park as it evaluates a plan for incorporating renewable energy into the community.

The PlanItGreen team capped off the workshop with a tour of the impressive facilities at Golden and a viewing of a state-of-the-art three-dimensional real-time planning and status operation of the energy generating, using and related functions of NREL.