A three-day summit on renewable energy opens today in Iowa City. Steve Fugate, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association, says the annual symposium features a host of learning opportunities for people in the industry, while the expo is designed to show off all the options and advances to the general public.

You’ll see solar panels, wind turbines, solar thermal panels and a host of energy efficiency providers, and utilities pitching renewable energy programs and systems. Fugate says about two-thousand people are expected to visit the Iowa Memorial Union during the event. He says today’s professional development symposium is geared toward industry accreditation for businesses and individuals working in the renewable energy field.

“We also have over 60 workshops on everything from energy efficiency to installation of systems to what the future holds for us,” Fugate says. He says there’s an impressive list of speakers, including Governor Terry Branstad, former Governor Chet Culver, and former Hawkeye and pro football player-turned solar energy company exec Tim Dwight.

Fugate says anyone who’s interested in learning about renewable energy should head for Iowa City. “It’s a great way for a person to very quickly get up to speed and see everything all in one place, rather than trolling around on the Internet and getting bits and pieces of information,” Fugate says. “You can talk with people who are doing it. That’s a huge benefit, people who’ve been living with it for a decade, to talk to them about what has worked and what hasn’t worked.”

The prices of P-V or photo-voltaic (voal-TAY-ick) cells have dropped 30% in the past few years, while energy costs continue to climb, which Fugate says makes renewable energy options look even more tempting. “We all know what’s going to happen,” Fugate says. “With oil at $110 a barrel, with utility prices increasing, now is a really good time to start thinking about it. iRenew is there to help people with that process but this is an event where everybody can come and see it all together. It’s definitely worth the trip.”

The expo will include an Alternative Energy Car Show featuring the Envision and Zenn electric cars. Learn more at the Iowa Renewable Energy Association website: www.irenew.org