Energy Expo Provides (Green) Food for Thought

Visitors to last year’s expo learned about wind energy’s potential.
Visitors to last year’s expo learned about wind energy’s potential.

by Gene Marrano

Billy Weitzenfeld, executive director of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals (AECP), says the annual Green Living & Energy Expo, to be held this Friday and Saturday (November 4-5) at the Roanoke Civic Center’s Special Events Center, is “geared towards the general public.” More than 2000 attended last year.

Weitzenfeld, who used to run an energy audit program in the New River Valley, is always pleased when school children and young adults come through the free admission trade show, looking for ideas on how to save energy. This year an expanded youth area will introduce young people to ideas concerning energy conservation.

“That’s how we tried to design it,” said Weitzenfeld, who works out of Floyd. “That’s why we have it on Friday. These kids are the future. They approach the concept a lot different than adults. They kind of embrace it.”

Consumers, homeowners and professionals will all find food for thought at the expo, and many of the booths feature products or contracting services that can make a home or business more energy efficient. There’s also a panel discussion on Friday (1 p.m.) concerning wind energy, a hot topic these days considering there are proposals for wind turbine farms on Bent Mountain, in Floyd County and elsewhere in the region. Invenergy, the company floating the idea of a wind farm to produce clean electricity on Bent Mountain, will be taking part.

“We’ve been promoting wind energy since the very first expo,” Weitzenfeld points out. “One of the challenges of putting this [event] on is trying to stay relevant [and] topical, with things that people are interested in. Obviously wind energy is a huge topic in southwest Virginia. We’re trying to provide good information … and then let people make up their own minds.”

Weitzenfeld said much of the data that has been available on the pros of wind energy has been “inaccurate misinformation. The topic of wind is certainly something that should be discussed.” There are seminars/discussions scheduled all day on Friday and Saturday.

It’s a reason to get people to the expo; Weitzenfeld hopes those who come to hear about wind energy will stay around and visit the exhibitors, which include Roanoke City and Roanoke County. You can also find out about basic how-to topics, like insulation, weather stripping and compact fluorescent lighting. The Town of Blacksburg has a booth, making the show a truly regional effort.

“We want people to take action,” said Weitzenfeld. “One way to do that is if they go out and buy a geothermal heat pump from talking to someone at the expo. That means they’re taking action. We’re helping these private sector [exhibitors] get some business.” The best feedback he gets is when past exhibitors tell him they reaped some business or did energy audits as a result of talking to someone at the expo. “Sales is about education,” insists Weitzenfeld.

The Association of Energy Conservation Professionals is a trade organization; many of its members are in the weatherization field. “We have a long history of training [and] educational service,” said Weitzenfeld, who points to the sustainable living education center at the home office inside Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts. “It’s like a mini-expo [there],” he adds.

Educating homeowners and builders alike on the benefits of going greener is AECP’s mission. The annual Green Living & Energy Expo is just one more way to get the word out. “It all comes down to energy education and advocacy,” said Weitzenfeld, a builder and contractor himself in years past. He anticipates this year’s event to be “the best ever.”

Expo hours at the Roanoke Civic Center this weekend: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday November 4 and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday November 5. 

See for a complete list of exhibitors.