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Publication Title | Site Survey for a renewable energy system

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Interview by

Ian Woofenden

©2001 Chris LaForge & Ian Woofenden

Chris LaForge, owner of Great Northern Solar, energy activist, and RE educator.

re you thinking about having a renewable energy (RE) system installed at your home or

business? Perhaps you’re wondering how to approach the project, and what to expect. You know that you’ll need a site survey and a load analysis, but you don’t really know just what an RE dealer will ask.

To get a clear picture of the process, I turned to Chris LaForge, owner of Great Northern Solar, in Port Wing, Wisconsin. Chris has been designing and installing renewable energy systems for over ten years. He lives off-grid with a photovoltaic (PV) and wind hybrid system, and has designed over 150 systems and installed over 100 systems for clients throughout the upper Midwest as well as other places. His customers have grown to trust his solid RE knowledge, and to appreciate his commitment to renewables, as well as his fine sense of humor.

66 Home Power #82 • April / May 2001

What got you started in renewable energy?

In 1977, a proposed nuclear waste dump near Lake Superior got me angry enough to respond. Many of us in the Duluth area felt that before we started making a dump for something that lasts a hundred times longer than recorded history, we should first stop producing the waste. This suggestion required some alternative to nuclear power, which began my interest in renewable energy.

Tell us a little about your business.

We started the business with the motto: “We live with what we sell.” We’ve found that that is a key to our success. By working and living with the systems we promote, we have much more knowledge, and we can honestly report on how things work.

Great Northern Solar has completed a very wide variety of systems throughout the country. We focus on the northern Midwest, but we have systems and students from Maine to California, Uganda, and Haiti. We have sold an average of about twelve systems each year since we opened over a decade ago.

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