For a nonprofit organization that’s all about demonstrating sustainable energy, having a solar engineer volunteer to take over its energy systems can render a person speechless.

Mechanical and solar engineer Craig Tarr first visited the Steger Wilderness Center a couple of years ago as part of a solar water-heating project. Tarr said he and Will Steger quickly developed a camaraderie that defied words. He soon asked Steger how he could “plug in” to help. After Steger explained his concerns about the Center’s energy systems, Tarr offered to take charge.

“And his eyes got big,” Tarr said. “He knew I was serious.”

Tarr began amassing his 30-plus years of expertise with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and an emphasis in solar. He noted that back in the late 1980s, solar hadn’t become popular.

“It had kind of been back-to-the-land or hippie guys doing it,” Tarr explained. “I had a ponytail and lived in a teepee, so I can say that.”

In 1994, he founded Energy Concepts in Hudson, Wisconsin, a business that develops heating and cooling systems for commercial buildings. At the time, solar systems were a hobby for him. But in 2007, he put his foot forward with solar as an add-on to his company. He said the idea exploded. Within two years, he was recognized by the state of Wisconsin as the renewable energy company of the year. He had raised the bar to a new level of professionalism, design and field execution in the solar industry. Today, Energy Concepts develops both electric and water heating solar systems.

As part of stage two in formulating the Center’s board, Tarr is its newest member. He has developed the Center’s 5-phase energy plan and will work with Dunwoody College of Technology to complete the architectural designs for the new dining hall. He will also oversee its construction.

“When I joined this board, I had very specific tasks and accountabilities, and Will is relying upon them,” he said. “The whole mission is key upon these off-grid systems.”

Tarr, 57, lives in River Falls, Wisconsin.

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