Solar Energy: Learning and Action Are More Important Than Ever

Ken Olson has spent a lifetime in Renewable Energy Education. To help us find the path to a truly sustainable energy future, he shows us what it takes to play an active role in the coming energy revolution.

Energy and environment continue a collision course. The era of cheap fossil fuels, which has powered global economic development for the past 75 years, is neither sustainable nor secure. The global environment and our gut-level senses demand that we set a truer course forward. Renewable energy resources of sun, wind and water come to us each … every day. They are plentiful, inexhaustible, un-interruptible, democratically distributed world wide and non-polluting. The technologies to put them to work are mature, affordable and readily available. I feel that Education is the most effective agent of change to a sustainable energy solution. Education is the vital link which enables consumers, employees, activists and investors to promote the use of solar energy as a key component to a sustainable future. Why Learn? Solar electricity used to be just for people who lived past the reach of the utility grid … not any more. The fact is that the photovoltaic industry is continues to experience a robust rate of growth. An average annual rate of growth in excess of 20% over the past 5 years is expected to ramp up to 25% growth rate over the coming years. Today, demand exceeds supply. The motivation for this growth stems from issues of self-reliance, power quality and reliability, environmental concern, and financial incentives. It is not too hard to see why solar energy education is booming. Solar energy courses and training workshops are now more popular than ever before. – People see the opportunities and they are taking action. – People want to learn how to use the cleanest power available — Solar energy for electricity, hot water, home heating and cooling, commercial and industrial applications and sustainable global development. They seek the information and knowledge to make the right choices; the skills to use the technologies, whether at home or for employment. They seek the experience to make a positive difference in the world. – Whether is was Y2K, the California rolling blackouts, concerns for global warming or national security, solar energy is in business and in business to stay. Many states have passed or pending legislation for a Renewable energy portfolio standard. This requires utilities to derive a certain percentage of their power generation from renewable energies such as solar and wind. Survey after survey shows that consumers want the option to purchase green power; demand for green power exceeds supply. Knowledge is Power Knowledge promotes awareness, ability and action. Most of us are fortunate to live in an open society full of opportunities to take action on our values and choose a sustainable path and a meaningful lifestyle. A growing number of people feel the disparity between how we lead our lives and what we value for the future of a sustainable world. Whether you want to build a home, find a job, change your career, start a business, make an investment, or help to improve the quality of life for those in the under-developed regions of the world, you will need to arm yourself with knowledge and skills. Structure Your Learning, Become the Change Mohandas Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” Start where ever you are. Become aware; see the opportunities; prepare yourself; and take action! Learning is the first step. Information is everywhere. You can read all about it, right? You can cruise the Internet. Talk to friends and folks in the business of Solar. Casual learning can be the beginning. However, having been involved in education — and solar in particular for the last 25 years — I strongly suggest taking a targeted, specially designed Solar course. It is the fastest, most effective way to capture the change that you seek. So why take a course? Here’s why: A well-designed course allows you to learn more thoroughly by creating a framework for learning; an orderly progression of concepts, terminology and applications. It puts you in touch with the most current ideas, products, projects, opportunities and incentives. You can learn in the context of instructors with experience that goes beyond the textbook.. You’ll also meet other interesting people who are equally as interested in learning as you are, making the educational experience all the more stimulating. Take an on-line distance course if you find the cost, time away, or intensive short courses a challenge. This allows you to fit your time to learn around your other commitments. It gives you access to a greater volume of learning resources and gives you more time to assimilate new information. Attend a hands-on workshop; teach your hands to do what your head thinks it already knows. Learn in the context of a real project, meet other people and have fun while you learn. Find out what it’s about, become aware, learn your options, and take action. If you will be the change you wish to see in the world.. make education your first step. About the Author: Ken Olson has consulted worldwide on renewable energy training, technical advisory, and program evaluation for NASA, Ministries of Health throughout Central and South America, and perhaps most notably, as the renewable energy technical consultant to the World Health Organization. Ken has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Planning in Solar Technology from Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and a Bachelor of Science in Building Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. He is a credentialed Vocational Industrial Trainer in renewable energies. He currently lives in Oaxaca, México with his family, from where he runs SolEnergy to provide high quality Renewable Energy distance learning courses via the internet.

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