Around 40 international students will be coming to Oxford County next week for the first ever International Renewable Energy Academy (IREA).
Several Oxford County sites will be hosting York University’s IREA, which focuses on experiential learning and will be using the county as a model of community-based renewable energy project development.
Manager of operations Jay Heaman said the IREA is a collaborative effort between York University’s sustainable energy initiative and Oxford County, adding that the program is the brainchild of York professor Dr. Jose Etcheverry.
“(Etcheverry’s) goal is to create something that can be global, where he combines training and the academic portion of it, but also experiential learning in a setting where the municipality and private sector are working towards common goals, expanding renewable energy,” Heaman said.
The first two days will take place at the York University campus and on Wednesday the students will travel to Oxford County. On Thursday the students will visit the Gunn’s Hill windfarm and the Siemans plant, then later that night there will be a public event at the Woodstock Art Gallery.
Heaman said they hope to expand and raise awareness for a larger launch of the IREA program in 2018.
“Oxford County is really getting to be well known internationally,” Heaman said. “In large part because of that visionary leadership they’ve put out there, not just with renewable energy but the establishment of an all encompassing sustainability plan.
“The important thing here is that Oxford County is being recognized as a leader and we can’t learn from just staying internal,” he added. “We have to be reaching out to the different countries that are excelling in their own area.”
Woodstock mayor Trevor Birtch also expressed his feelings about why the IREA coming to Oxford County is such a big deal.
“This is a great example of the world watching all of the great leadership here in our community from business and industry on all of these sustainability initiatives,” Birtch said.
The mayor added that he is excited for the public engagement that will take place.
“It will be a great opportunity for some of the members of the public to see why all of these initiatives are so closely linked to our community and to all of the opportunities around the world right now,” he said.
There is still a chance for Oxford County residents to get involved with the programs county-hosted events. Those residents who have an interest in renewable energy can find more information online at rea.info.yorky.ca.