Tuesday, May 11, 2010
2010 Thought Leader in Energy Art Toy: Walking the talk
Company: Four Elements Energy Inc., Lawrence
Education: B.S. in chemistry, UCLA; M.S. in synthetic organic chemistry, UCLA; Solar Photovoltaic Knowledge Certified, Northwest Michigan College; Certified wind turbine/tower installation, Bergey Windpower Co.
Industry: Renewable energy systems design and installation
Years involved with alt energy: 13
Art Toy believes his background in pharmaceutical R&D, IT, energy and climate change, as well as military service during Desert Storm give him a unique perspective in the world of renewable energy systems.
Although he designs and installs renewable energy systems, Toy’s greatest focus is educating the public about energy self-reliance and helping them transition their homes and businesses to a “more-diversified energy future.” What sparked your interest in alt energy?
While attending UCLA, I developed a passion for preserving our planet’s natural resources when I minored in oceanography and geology.
This passion has evolved over the years into the arena of helping our society transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to one in which the majority of power comes from non-fossil fuel based sources.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment pertaining to alt energy?
I am very proud to have brought increased awareness of the practicality of renewable energy systems to the people of West Michigan.
My family has done this by not only talking the talk but walking the walk by living with renewable energy systems in our restored 1899 dairy farm house.
My family saved the farmhouse from the wrecking ball by moving the building from Kalamazoo to Lawrence, a distance of 33 miles.
We also installed a 10 kilowatt Bergey wind turbine, geothermal heating/cooling system, solar thermal collectors for heating domestic hot water, a deep wrap around porch and a Belvedere atop the house to provide natural convention cooling in the summer.
Our home is now part of the national annual solar homes tour to show actual examples of what people have done to their homes with sustainable designs and renewable energy systems.
What is the great challenge facing our region, state and/or nation, as it pertains to energy?
The introduction of plug-in hybrid vehicles onto an electrical grid that has evolved over the last 100 years.
We must quickly upgrade the security of the electrical grid to prevent unauthorized access … to safeguard the grid from regional and/or nationwide cyber attacks.
What does Michigan need to do to compete internationally in alternative energy?
Michigan must lead by example in the integration of a variety of renewable energy systems to provide electrical power.
To do this, Michigan must have the highest percentage of electricity produced by renewable energy compared to other Snow Belt states with comparable climates.
The world is currently looking to Germany and Denmark as examples; these countries are internationally recognized for their renewable energy programs.
Keep in mind that Michigan has similar solar and wind potential when compared to Germany and Denmark.
There is no reason why the world could not look to Michigan as a leader in this arena by implementing the highest renewable energy portfolio standard, RPS, of all Snow Belt states. This would, in turn, jump start a competitive internal market in the Great Lakes region.
A statewide RPS must be applicable to all public and municipal utilities in order for all Michigan utility clients to equally participate in any utility-sponsored renewable energy program.
The financing of larger-scale projects could be achieved through various renewable energy financial funding instruments whereby investors could pool their capital as long-term investments to fund wind farms and solar farms similar to how the construction of traditional municipal power plants are funded.