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Faces of Solar: Shariff Shakir, CEO of AES Solar

Shariff Shakir did not always plan to enter the solar industry. After trying to start a couple businesses in the medical field, he decided to pivot to solar energy. 

In 2019, Shariff contacted Aur Beck, founder of AES Solar in Carterville, a city of about 5,800 residents just east of Carbondale. He quickly found a home at AES Solar; his passion for the solar industry was almost instantaneous. Today, he serves as Chief Executive Officer of AES Solar and is on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Solar Energy and Storage Association. His extensive work in the solar industry makes him our next Faces of Solar in our series.

When Shariff first reached out to Aur Beck and AES Solar, he expected to be doing physical labor as an installer. But he soon discovered there were more opportunities for growth in the industry, as he began working for AES in commercial sales. With a bachelor's in electrical engineering, Shariff quickly adapted to the various skills that the solar industry required. 

“I am not the type of person who likes to do the same thing every day,” Shariff said. “Every day is a new challenge and a new obstacle to tackle. There is the added benefit of knowing that my contributions are going to improve the environment.”

But what excites Shariff the most is the industry’s potential in Illinois. Thanks to critical investments from the landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) and federal Inflation Reduction Action (IRA), the industry has experienced rapid growth in the last several years and is primed for further expansion in the near future. More than 5,600 Illinoisans work in the industry and the Solar Energy Industries Association projects a 1,700% growth in Illinois solar capacity in the next five years, which is certain to create even more job opportunities.

“I think Illinois has made great strides in developing policy that is pro-solar,” Shariff said. “Having the actual RIGHT to self-generate our own electricity is huge and unique. The state is on a great path but we must remain flexible to an ever-changing market. As long as we don't get in our own way, we should be able to do great things.”

Shariff encourages anyone who is interested in solar to take the opportunity to join the industry, whether in sales, design, installation, or other pathways. He is a testament to how someone can take an opportunity and make the most of it.

“The longevity of solar is understated,” Shariff said. “Take advantage of all the resources to learn solar. There is room for every type of person in solar, which I think is novel to this industry. There are so many pathways to enter and learn.”

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