Thousands drawn to exhibition


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Holding the Renergie '94 symposium in the sleepy German town of Hamm-Westfalia meant running the risk that few in this densely populated but traditionally coal and steel bastion of North Rhine Westfalia would be interested in visiting a full-blown renewables congress and exhibition. Unlike previous renewable energy events in Germany, held in Husum and Travemünde near the wind-rich north German coast, the majority of potential visitors to Hamm were not concentrated in the general region but spread out across several inland states.

But after a sticky start for the first two days, Renergie '94 was declared a success by the organisers, the state-supported renewables and environment advisory organisation Öko-Zentrum and Husum Messe. By the end of the event 6500 visitors had filed through the exhibition and around 600 people attended the congress. Some 80 companies and renewables associations were represented at Renergie '94, of which nearly half were from the wind sector.

With symbolic significance the congress and part of the exhibition were located in the huge and depressingly impressive machine workshop building of the long since closed Saxony coal mine. The first day opened with a bang, with the media swarming over the whole complex, clamouring for facts and interviews. More than ten local and regional newspapers covered the event along with television and radio. "There has been a gigantic media echo, " enthused Thomas Bauer of Öko-Zentrum. "The phones haven't stopped ringing with press enquiries and requests for interviews."

The congress, too, divided into solar and wind, was well visited. During the first two days the large room used by the wind section was packed full with some 250 people, leaving standing room only for latecomers. In contrast, the exhibition was poorly visited in this period, with the outdoor section proving the most lively. "I wish we'd taken a smaller stand," and "Is it worth coming back tomorrow? " were comments which reflected the mood of the exhibitors.

Once the weekend arrived, however, the attendance levels at the congress and exhibition were reversed. Fewer were interested in the congress, while visitors to the exhibition picked up. This led to the general conclusion that once away from the coast, wind energy and renewables are still regarded as a hobby activity for private people interested in the environment, to be tackled in leisure hours.

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