Oregon Solar News

My Solar Story - Shaun Franks


My solar story started at Southern Oregon University (SOU) in 2010. I went back to school because I had recently become a father and wanted to set a good example for my son. I was a business major but began taking environmental studies classes. The classes focused on environmental problems, which are daunting, but I wanted to come up solutions. I decided to minor in environmental studies, focusing when possible on courses in corporate sustainability.

The Summer of 2011, I had the opportunity to study renewable energy in Germany. Although the course was less than a month long, the impacts had a lasting effect on my education and engagement on campus. I learned about a variety of renewable energy resources deployed through their feed-in-tariff legislation; which turned a country with less solar exposure than Portland into a world leader in solar energy. Before leaving Deutschland, I set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) to put 20 megawatts in Southern Oregon in my lifetime.

After returning from Germany, I spoke with the president of our student government about possible projects and quickly became the director of sustainability for ASSOU (Associated Student of SOU). I worked with a group of students, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to create the SOU Green Fund which allocates about $50,000 a term of student money to energy, water, and campus projects (over a million dollars every seven years or so). We were able to utilize these funds to establish solar projects on campus including our student union (31.6 kW), then a year later we did two projects on our new residence halls, Shasta (82.5 kW) and McLoughlin (73.7 kW). Students are still using these funds to dream up a variety of sustainability projects including solar.

After graduating from SOU I started working with a group of youth in my community concerned about climate change. We started Rogue Climate with a goal to get our communities to create a faster transition to cleaner energy. We’ve been focusing on state and local policies related to solar as well as local ordinances aimed at setting climate targets in order to spur our communities here in the Rogue Valley into action. The City of Ashland recently passed a 10 by 20 ordinance which sets a target for the city to be 10% renewable by 2020, just 4 short years.

This year I was blessed with the best job ever; a company whose vision is “solar on every rooftop”. I currently work at True South Solar in sales and marketing with an amazing team who all work towards our collective success. My wife and I now have two boys, and I continually strive to set a good example for them as well as leaving this planet just a little better than I found it.

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