The second annual Rocktown Clean Energy Festival served as an opportunity for attendees to learn about sustainable energy methods and engage in conversation. 

Global temperatures may be on the rise within the next two decades, according to earthday.org. Though making strides toward sustainable energy to combat this might be a daunting task for many, events like the Rocktown Clean Energy Festival exist to change that.

The festival made its second annual debut downtown on Saturday, Oct. 29, near the farmers market as part of the National Solar Home Tour, which has been running for five years.

Remy Pangle, one of the forces behind this festival and the education manager for the Center for Advancement of Sustainable Energy (CASE) explained how this is a tour for those who are thinking about going solar. During this tour, homeowners can go to a local solar house and learn from the owners about how to install solar in their own homes while saving money at the same time.

The festival allows small business owners and homeowners who’ve invested in solar panels and clean energy solutions to come together to share stories and wisdom on the topic.

“We want to make [the tour] bigger and better each year, and this is one way we can do that,” Dustyn Vallies, the outreach and development manager for CASE, said. “We are trying to ... facilitate opportunities for people to ... come to one central place and all get to meet and have it be more like a community event.”

The festival featured a carnival with themed games like energy source corn hole, renewable energy trivia and a power grid ring toss with prizes for the kids — all run by volunteers from the Valley Scholars’ program at JMU. Sustainable energy experts and solar homeowners came throughout the day to talk about sustainable energy and how people can make an impact. Some of these panels featured talks on how to build energy audits and what a career in clean energy looks like. 

The event was also sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC). Located in Rockingham County, the electric utility provider operates over 96,000 meters throughout Virginia counties like Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren. It was the first ever electric cooperative created in Virginia, and this is its first year sponsoring the festival.

Sometimes to be a good steward and look out for the environment means to serve as a good resource of information on electric vehicles and solar panels as Preston Knight, the communication manager for SVEC, said. “We do want to keep building those partnerships, and the festival is one of the ways that we can at least accomplish that.”

While the SVEC couldn’t attend the festival this year in person, Knight said he hopes to be there next year, and he emphasized its importance for the surrounding community. Where everything is constantly moving and changing at a fast pace, Knight said he thinks it’s important to take time to share ideas and see where the future’s headed.

“It is a good opportunity to get like-minded people together for sure, and you want to broaden the scope to open it up to anybody because you might change some minds or at least educate somebody who was not as interested or as knowledgeable on certain topics,” Knight said. “It’s good to have a festival like this as part of an ongoing conversation.”

This offer of knowledge on sustainable energy is what drew in Charlotte Bronaugh, a freshman theater education major at JMU. As part of the student government association (SGA), Bronaugh heard about the event through the CAGE, a community service-based committee within SGA, and signed up to volunteer.

“I just love volunteering and I love getting out of the campus bubble a little bit and kind of learning what is going on,” Bronaugh said.

Bronaugh attended the education and workforce panel and talked to business owners at different tables throughout the event. One of her favorites was the HP energy solution company where she said she learned about affordable utilities, like certain washers, that help with clean energy. As a college student, Bronaugh said she found the event helpful.

“The internet and resources can be a little bit overwhelming so that it can be hard to know where to look,” Bronaugh said. “So by having a big event that kind of has everything to get you started … I think it makes it a little easier on students to utilize the resources that they have.” 

It may seem intimidating to switch it up and start gearing one’s life toward sustainable clean energy, but as Bronaugh said, there’s value in getting involved.

“There is no harm in going out and learning something new and also getting to be a part of your community,” Bronaugh said. 

Contact Sabine Soltys at soltysms@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.