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Renewable energy fair in Appleton

APPLETON – In an eco-friendly barn on Route 18, in the shadow of a towering wind turbine, Singer Farm Naturals will fittingly host a “Renewable Energy Fair” today in an effort to better acquaint the public with alternative forms of energy.

Singer Farms Naturals and the Sierra Club, Niagara Group – co-sponsors of the event – hope to gain support in persuading Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to take necessary action to meet and extend the state’s renewable energy goal of 30 percent by 2015, pushing development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and weaning the U.S. from its dependence on fossil fuels, organizers said.

The event will kick off with a solar torch relay at 1 p.m. at the eco-barn at 6730 Lake Road, to the nearby coal-fired Upstate Power Producers plant, with speakers scheduled to address a variety of alternative energy topics at the barn beginning at about 2 p.m. Live music, good food and activities for children are also planned.

Singer Farms Naturals has been a local leader in the alternative energy movement, turning on its wind turbine last May and wrapping its historic 1840s barn in straw bales for insulation two years ago.

At today’s event, experts will discuss wind energy, geothermal energy and the effects of climate change on agriculture.

“We are very education-oriented here,” said Tom Szulist, who with his wife, Vivianne, owns Singer Farm Naturals.

“We want to teach people about the different technologies and the grants that are available to them for this. Our whole business model here showcases these [alternative energy sources] and how doable they are.”

Sierra Club member and Lewiston resident Diana Strablow, who helped organize the event, said she viewed two timely, emotionally charged films last week that further solidified her commitment to educating the public about climate change. They were “Chasing Ice” by James Balog, a National Geographic photographer who has been recording rapidly melting glaciers, and “Do the Math,” about the efforts of environmentalist Bill McKibben.

“This is a planetwide, human issue,” she said. “I get speechless over the size of this problem … But we can’t change until people know that we need to change. … Scientists used to talk about ‘global warming,’ then it became ‘climate change,’ and now they are using the term ‘climate crisis.’ But scientists say there is still a small window of time to act, and the time is now.”

Strablow said her group hopes to convince Cuomo and others that “we need to turn away from carbon and methane-emitting fuels and turn to clean, renewable energy. Our campaign is ‘Turn, Not Burn.’ We have to let Gov. Cuomo know that we want renewable energy now.”

“There was a study by Robert Howarth of Cornell University and Mark Jacobson of Stanford University [examining the feasibility], and they said that New York State has the opportunity to convert [its energy infrastructure] to 100 percent renewable energy, using wind, solar and hydro power by 2030,” Strablow said. “The message is ‘Renewable is doable.’ ”

“We are urging Gov. Cuomo to adopt the FIT for Western New York, the Feed-In Tariff pricing system that has been proven successful in more than 80 jurisdictions worldwide, from Germany to Ontario, to Los Angeles and Long Island, so you know how much you get for producing one kilowatt of energy, whether it’s with solar panels or a windmill,” she said.