Don Laughlin served on the Board of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew) from the organization’s founding in the 1990s, and stayed active into the 2000s. I remember meeting Don at the I-Renew members get-together following the 2006 Renewable Energy Expo in Solon.
I will never forget meeting him because he put me at ease right away by pointing out that we shared the same name. He was very welcoming and encouraged me to continue my volunteer efforts. He also told me about one of the things that motivated him to pursue the I-Renew mission “to make renewable energy a reality.” He described himself as feeling frustrated with the direction our country had taken. President Carter had once had us on a path toward home-grown, sustainable, renewable energy. However, in 1981, well after the oil embargo of the 1970s, Ronald Reagan had removed the solar panels from the White House roof. This sent a clear message: America will revert back to its addiction to oil. Oil is a scarce energy source from a volatile region, and the burning of fossil fuels is the number one contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. For Don, being a part of I-Renew was a way for him to ensure that renewable energy solutions would not be forgotten in America.
Don was a go-getter and a doer. He built his own home with energy efficiency and renewable energy at its core. In addition to utilizing ingenious energy efficiency building solutions, he incorporated passive solar, solar thermal and solar PV. By today’s standards, his home would be LEED Platinum two or three times over. Like many renewable energy advocates, I remember how Don graciously opened up his home to public tours. He showed us what was possible. He gave us hope, sparked many careers in green building, and inspired us to make renewable energy the primary source of energy in Iowa.
In his final moments, Don wrote a letter to Warren Buffet, to encourage Mid American Energy to grow solar power in America like they have done with wind. His article was published in the Des Moines Register. Read it here.
President of the Board
Iowa Renewable Energy Association