Allan Bloom is famous for saying, “Education is the movement from darkness to light,” and I have found that to be true all my life. I have been educating myself about solar power and sustainable living since I was 15, when I moved into a camper in my parent’s driveway to see if I could live off-grid. Even my name, “Aur,” is Hebrew for “light” or “to enlighten.” These days, as founder and lead installer at AES Solar, I am working to educate others, and to help bring the light of knowledge and empowerment to Southern Illinois.
A great way to educate people about solar power is to show them how it actually works. Our educational showroom at 1804 Supply Rd. in Carterville is a top-to-bottom display of real photovoltaic equipment that you can see up-close. For example, it can be hard to picture how solar panels get attached to your roof, but our “mock roof” display shows the same solar panel mounting systems that we use on real roofs. Our inverter wall shows how solar energy is converted for practical use, both for large and small systems, with and without battery backup.
Of course, we have our own solar power system powering our building, and our display includes a live visual monitor of how much energy is being produced, and whether we are drawing any power from the grid, or actually selling it back to the power company. During last year’s solar eclipse, it was fascinating to be able to check the monitor and see the sharp dip and rise as the moon passed in front of the sun.
In addition to the more hands-on education pieces, we keep our showroom stocked with literature about solar power, magazines, solar buyers’ guides, information about battery backup systems, and even a cookbook for solar ovens. There are also books on solar power and sustainable living available for children and adults. Our showroom is a fantastic place for students, community groups, and curious individuals to come and be educated.
AES Solar is also committed to outreach, educating our current and future generations of solar installers and users. As part of the Energizing Student Potential Program, we are currently installing solar at three schools in Murphysboro and Mount Vernon. This fantastic grant program brings hands-on solar education to STEM students throughout the state, and we are honored to be a part of it. In 2016, we installed solar at seven schools in Johnston City, Herrin and Vienna, and used the opportunity to train eight new electricians while we were at it.
Most recently AES Solar held a hands-on training class in Marion where we installed solar on a Habitat for Humanity home. This class was a part of the Future Energy Jobs act, an Illinois initiative to prepare for the booming solar job market as Illinois and the rest of the region shift towards more and more renewable energy sources each year. I also regularly teach courses and train new solar installers at John A. Logan College. Follow AES Solar on Facebook to be notified when the next course will be held.
Education is a lifelong journey. As we change, and the world changes around us, we should never stop basking in the light of new knowledge and using it to help us grow.