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SEI Hosts International Solar Training Experience of a Lifetime

Posted by: april
October 11, 2011

Solar Energy InternationalBy Holly Loff, Solar Energy International Development Associate

Checklist for an Solar Energy International Rural Development Student:

• See biogas cookers in action.
• Start the day with a cup of organic solar-roasted coffee.
• Visit with and learn from the Solar Women of Totogalpa
- a solar cooperative.
• Eat lunch at the Women's Solar Restaurant.
• Work in a remote (only-accessible-by-boat) community on the Atlantic Coast.Solar Training
• Make smoothies in a bicycle-powered blender.
• Witness the elation of people gaining access to electricity in their own homes for the first time.
• Cook over a charcoal oven using charcoal made locally from corn stalks.
• Construct and install a wind turbine.
• Install PV systems in rural Nicaragua.
• Build a biosand water filter with local materials.
• Make your own solar battery charger.

Recently 10 SEI students were able to check-off similar lists, thanks to participating in two separate International Rural Development classes held in Nicaragua in September:

RD205: Sustainable Community Development: Renewable Energy for Rural Villages

RD206: Sustainable Community Development: Wind Power for Rural Communities.

Although the tuition for these classes helps fund the PV and turbine equipment and the students provide most of the labor for their installation, the purpose is not only to bring renewables to the Nicaraguans. In fact the Nicaraguans are largely the teachers. Really SEI offers these workshops as an opportunity for students to see first-hand the amazing impact renewables have on a community. Quite simply the empowering value that access to electricity has on people cannot be taught in a classroom.

You see: only 55% of Nicaraguans have access to electricity and less than 1% of that comes from solar energy. Grupo Fenix, a Nicaraguan NGO (non-governmental organization), is trying to change that by making the small village of Sabana Grande a solar community. Grupo Fenix hosts RD205 students in Sabana Grande where students learn about solar cooking from a local women's cooperative, the Solar Women of Totogalpa (SWT,) and assist themInternational Solar Training in building more cookers.

Laurie Guevara-Stone, SEI's International Program Manager, wrote about Solar Women of Totogalpa in a June article for Home Power magazine.

Participants in RD205 also work with local solar technicians to learn how to build their own solar battery chargers and install a PV system in Sabana Grande.

Our students learn in a fully immersed hands-on program through both of these courses, but the courses are about more than the skills taught and the assistance offered to developing communities. Students experience the joy, and more importantly, the empowerment that comes from the installation of renewables in remote, off-grid communities. Electricity doesn't just bring these communities clean light, clean cooking, refrigeration and water treatment, it changes the way people feel about their communities, their lives and, ultimately, themselves.

RD102: Solar Electricity for the Developing World will bring students to Costa Rica in January 2012 and RD201: Renewable Energy for the Developing World - Hands-on will be in March- also in Costa Rica.

Students can start down their international renewable energy training path with this online course starting Oct. 24, 2011: RDOL101: Renewable Energy for the Developing World - Online

Have you participated in one of SEI's International classes? I would love to hear what you experienced.
E-mail Solar Energy International
E-mail Holly here

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