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Paonia, Colorado - The Perfect Solar Training Vacation - or a Train-cation?

Posted by:
August 9, 2012

Hands-on training is in full swing for 2012 and energy levels are high at Solar Energy International’s state-of-the-art Lab Facility in Paonia, Colorado. Paonia is located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains along the North Fork of the Gunnison River and the skyline is dominated by 11,395 foot tall Mt. Lamborn.

The beautiful snow capped mountains are transforming into rivers teaming with fish during the warm days, and the soothing sound of crickets and coyote calls claim the cool nights.   A growing number of our students are turning their solar training experience with SEI into both a training and a vacation destination - or maybe it is a train-cation?

The North Fork Valley is optimal for growing organic produce and is increasingly renowned for its award-winning wines and beer. All of the local wineries are awesome, but Azura Cellars is one of our staff favorites.  (photo to the right) I hear from our students their Cabernet-Franc is AMAZING!  Considering Napa Valley, California for a vacation?   Why?  Western Colorado is much more beautiful.  

Staff consider our location (albeit removed from the hubbub of busy city life) a little piece of heaven, and the best kept secret in solar (though with all our alumni and industry friends the word is always spreading)! Paonia is naturally air conditioned by warm air flowing up the valley at night and cool air coming from the mountains during the day.

The orchards in the area are epic.   Black Bridge Winery and Orchard Valley Farms is a great place to visit to pick your own produce and sample some great wine.   Couples and families  come to SEI's training labs in the summer to experience not only the best in solar training, but some of the best organic farms in the U.S.  (Orchard Valley Farms shop photo to the right)

If you like to explore nature, Paonia has some of the best mountain bike trails in the state (…shhhh!). One can ride the trails and not run into another person, which is rare considering the caliber of the trails. If you stay for a couple of workshops, staff will point you in the right direction to explore beautiful pieces of Colorado over the weekends in-between workshops. Explore the Black Canyon or Lost Lake and see for yourself why we live here.

Students who stay for weeks of workshops at a time start off a little nervous and end up leaving having gained incredible experience and a level of confidence that surprises even themselves. As a staff member of SEI, I get an equally warm glow and satisfaction from the experience of meeting so many amazing and talented students who have enthusiasm and passion for renewable energy.

Each week I feel like I get a recharge from the smiles and laughter we have on campus from students beaming with pride and a new found confidence in using and installing PV.  I believe in SEI’s mission and want to tell as many people as possible about our hands-on training because we are here to further the quality of work the solar industry produces. We ultimately want PV installations (no matter who installs them) to be something we can all be proud of – we’re all in this together.

We have workshops ranging from PV 101, PV 202, PV 201L (grid-direct Lab), PV 301L (battery-based Lab), PV 351L (O&M Lab), but classes are filling up, so if you are interested in signing up for a workshop or two don’t wait or you may miss your chance this summer. I hope you get to come to SEI this summer and experience the buzz yourself.

- Tawnya Parker - Solar Energy International

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