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College professor lives his passion for clean energy, keeps eyes on a more sustainable future

Eli Bowles is Assistant Professor of Renewable Energy & Industrial Systems Technology in the  Trades and Industry Department at the College of Southern Idaho and works in sales for EGT Solar. He’s worked in clean energy for over a decade and before that, was an EMT.

As an assistant professor for the only clean energy program in higher education in the state of Idaho, Eli Bowles is as proud of his work as he is of his students. 

He teaches renewable energy systems technology at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) as part of the two-year applied sciences program. Bowles teaches courses on industrial safety as well as renewable energy. His courses will leave successful students with OSHA and CPR cards as well as knowledge of how to use tools such as hydraulic torque and tension tools, laser alignments down to a highly accurate .05 milliliter tolerance, mechanical drive, how to align shafts, gear drives, pulleys, and chain drives, gear ratios, and more. Even if students don’t want to stay in the renewable energy industry, knowledge of these tools is useful for a large variety of careers.

“Working at CSI afforded me the opportunity to get my master’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety, which is what I’d want to be able to demonstrate for my students,” Bowles said. “Safety is everything. You can have all the wisdom you want, but it’s worthless in the field without safety.”

Bowles brings years of practical and technical experience to his students as a former EMT and someone who is certified to work and train in solar energy and wind turbine technology. He has climbed turbines and been responsible for the safety of workers installing and fixing turbines. These days, he wants to pass on his enthusiasm and knowledge in his position as a teacher and community member, but worries that there is not enough investment in this future.

Bowles believes a career in clean energy is not only beneficial for our communities, but for the students as well. 

“Even if they haven’t graduated yet, they can work and still earn a degree,” he said. “This program has a 96 to 97% job placement rate.”

Bowles believes the hesitancy to invest in clean renewable energy infrastructure lies in misinformation about it. His passion for teaching and for being a part of Idaho Energy Freedom is to help educate the public about economic opportunities in the field. 

“I’ve run into so much misinformation here,” he said. “Turbines kill birds, but not to the degree that fear mongering claims to kill. It’s vital to our future to change people’s perceptions and educate them that renewable energy is not a bad thing. It’s not a be-all, end-all solution; we won’t get totally off fossil fuels ever with trains and planes and how clothes are made, but let’s solve a piece of the puzzle with wind, solar, and hydropower. They’re all pieces of the puzzle.”

Despite this, he remains hopeful that Idaho will take advantage of clean energy options that benefit our economy and ratepayers.

“It’s all about getting good, accurate information to the general public,” he said. “When I got to talk to people about renewable energy as a solar panel salesman, it was very fulfilling because regardless of whether they purchased or not, they were more educated, and in the end, less likely to spread misinformation.”

In the meantime, Bowles continues to recruit students for his department at CSI, dedicates time to Idaho Energy Freedom’s Advisory Council, and knocks on doors to talk to people one-on-one about the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy. 

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