Ironton man shedding light on solar energy source

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

Egyptians believed it was the father of one of their pharaohs. The Incas' state religion revolved around it, while the ancient monument of Stonehenge was thought to be its man-made sanctuary on earth.

People from all over the world have worshipped the sun, but only within the last century have they attempted to harness its power directly, converting it into a usable, inexpensive energy source.

But for Ironton resident Thurman Todd Miller, solar energy is more than a futuristic concept; it is his passion.

Email newsletter signup

"It's something I found really, really interesting," he said. "I initially got interested in solar energy due to current oil prices. I wanted to do something to promote alternative energy."

That is why he chose to start his business, Soulsolar, in September with the slogan, "See the Light." That aim was accomplished in part with the first Soulsolar "FLARE" brochure, a comprehensive guide aimed at raising awareness of solar power facts.

"We're just committed to getting information out there to the public," he said. "ŠIt's not a big solar publication that you have to sit there and try to read. It's a quick, five-minute, easy-to-read brochure."

Miller said he began by researching news articles and various solar-related Web sites in an effort to learn more about the technology.

In late October, he attended a conference in San Francisco to further that education. What he saw there was definitely something he wanted to share with others.

"It was very exciting. I found out a lot of people are committed to this cause," he said.

The conference was the largest solar business conference ever held in the United States, Miller said. It was filled with a variety of professionals, everyone from solar panel manufacturers to CEOs from major energy corporations such as BP and Shell Oil.

All of them had a similar goal: to promote the sun's amazing power.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar hot water heaters for example can reduce the need for conventional heating by about two-thirds. Passive solar heating (housing designs that incorporate large south-facing windows and building materials that absorb the sun's heat) can reduce heating bills by as much as 50 percent.

Those kinds of numbers excite Miller, who said the technology could mean more jobs for this area.

While Soulsolar is just now getting off the ground, Miller has definite plans for its future.

"As far as the magazine is concerned, it's still in its infancy," Miller said. "ŠI would like to see it become a quarterly or monthly publication eventually."

Miller will soon be moving to the Southwestern United States soon where he plans to equip his home with solar technology.

His long-term vision is to turn Soulsolar into an educational organization where people can learn solar application first-hand. In addition, he also wants to create solar farms where homes powered by the sun can be set up and studied. Traveling workshops could bring the technology to people unable to visit the nearest solar farm.

For now, Miller is working on the second FLARE brochure that should be available around Jan. 15. A Web site is also on the horizon in early 2005.

The 41-year-old former employee of Dow Chemical is putting all of his resources into this venture. The name of his company says it all.

"Because I'm black, a lot of people think the 'Soul' part of 'Soulsolar' has something to do with my (ethnicity)," he said. "But it comes from the fact that I've put my heart and soul into this. I just dropped the heart part and went with 'Soulsolar.' "

To request the FLARE brochure, send $2 (check or money order) to P.O. Box 611, Ironton, OH 45638-0611. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. Additional information may also be obtained by writing to Miller at the same address.