Remembering Renewable Energy Pioneer Dan Alway

Reader Contribution by Aur Beck and Advanced Energy Solutions Group
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Dan Alway (right) and the author

Long-time Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) member Dan Alway passed away September 21, 2015. Dan was a renewable energy pioneer and advocate who worked tirelessly to promote renewable energy. Dan was involved in many things over the years including Kalamazoo Nature Center and a scoutmaster. Dan was honored by more than 600 of his friends and colleagues at an award presentation at The Energy Fair Networking Dinner in Custer, Wisconsin, Thursday, July 16, 2016. There was also a book present for folks to record any memories of him that they would like to write down along with displaying a photo collage.

Mark Klein, longstanding Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) Board Member, Energy Fair founder, and Co-Owner of Gimme Shelter Construction presented the award on Thursday evening.

The Avenue of Advocates award is a tree planted at the main entrance to the annual Energy Fair, which is dedicated to Dan Alway, longtime Energy Fair presenter and renewable energy advocate who passed away this year. The Avenue of Advocates recognizes people or organizations who have shown great leadership in advancing renewable energy and sustainable living.

I, along with long-time friend Richard Seibt accepted the award on Dan’s behalf and said a few words about Dan. Here is some of what I tried to say about Dan.

I think the first time I met Dan was at the Energy Fair in 1997, when he was throwing together a basic, off-the-grid system for some lights in the yurt at the Portage County Fairgrounds.

His energy and enthusiasm sucked me right in, and we ended up tinkering/playing with solar for many years after. His fun-loving nature made it easy to ask him to join me in doing presentations about “Living Off Grid, Really?” at the Illinois Energy Fair and the Midwest Energy Fair. He would talk about the trials and tribulations of over 20 years of living off-grid in upstate Michigan (no sun and snow), and I would talk about the same in Southern Illinois (very hot and humid).


We would always tease each other about how crazy we were to live off-grid with so little solar. We were the Two Stooges solar act, and we had so much fun doing our stand-up/sit-down comedy solar talks. In the process, we educated thousands of people over the years about simplifying their lives.

If it wasn’t for Dan inspiring me with his wit, I don’t know if I could have ever gotten up and talked in front of people. I used to be the shyest person ever, but with Dan’s help, I tapped into the fervor of my renewable energy addiction to share and get others addicted. Dan absolutely loved educating anyone, but kids were his best students, as he figured out ways to make his education interactive and fun and, most importantly, relevant.

In a book published in 2009 about The Energy Fai,r I talked about how I kept in touch with Dan and about how he is fun and full of life.

I remember the year he was passing out fusion-powered solar dryers, which came with detailed directions on how they work. The bag consisted of the directions, 25 clothes pins, and a length of clothes line. Yes, he was selling a clothes line. People had such a hoot about them that he sold out and had to go to town to buy additional material to make more.

The last time I saw Dan was at The Energy Fair in June of last year when we did our Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Presentation for more than 200 people, and we gave away a complete, off-the-grid solar system. It was a solar yard light! This was Dan’s idea of a great fun joke to give.

GLREA has started the Dan Alway Memorial Scholarship which will be awarded annually to a student entering higher education. You can donate to the Dan Memorial Scholarship fund here.

Read Dan’s obituary here. I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there. Stay energized.

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Projecta fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International  and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FMFind him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!?Facebook page, and read all of Aur’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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