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Solar Energy International: Hands-on, Industry-Supported Solar Training at its Best

Posted by: april
May 1, 2012

Solar Energy International Renewable Energy Education Program Team LeaderBy Kathy Swartz, Renewable Energy Training Director

On April 30, Solar Energy International officially kicked off the 2012 summer PV training season with a full class for PV201L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Grid-Direct) at our state-of-the-art training facility in Paonia, Colorado. And once again, the caliber of participants is exceptional ... The diversity and the support from industry has been fantastic!

  • The participants represented three countries and 14 different states. Each of the participants had to complete at least one PV101 online or in-person training to attend this training. Seven of the participants are enrolled in SEI's Solar Professionals' Certificate Program. There would have been eight Certificate Program attendees, however, John W. just got a job in the industry and was unable to attend. (Congratulations John!)
  • This workshop is a mixture of engineers, electricians, contractors, a college student, a community college instructor, project manager, installers looking to receive more training (at least three), and several folks looking for a career change.
  • We have a fantastic crew of instructors with us this week. Together, the four instructors and two support staff have more than 80 years of experience actively working in the PV industry selling, designing and installing systems.

Solar Energy International has had an active relationship with the PV industry for over 21 years. Why? Because we offer nonbiased, nonaffiliated training that's taught by field-experienced instructors. We aren't a distributor or manufacturer that is beholden to specific products. Our instructors are going to tell it like it is without BS. And the PV industry has respected and supported SEI's training becauseSolar Energy International of this.

Thanks to this industry support, each year SEI expands our Paonia PV Lab Facility to evolve with the rapidly changing industry. And 2012 has been no exception.

We installed a 2kW system with donated thin-film modules, using Helical pier foundations from Cantsink. This system uses UniRac's ULA racking components and a Fronius IG Plus 3000W inverter, both of which were donated. Multi-Contact also donated locking clips for the older style MC3 leads on the modules. Wire management was made easy and clean with the use of Snake Tray bolted to the back of the rails.   

In addition, we installed another system that uses a donated Solar Edge Inverter with their module level electronics. We are using a variety of existing SEI modules to demonstrate Solar Edge's abilities maximize the output of each module. This system was also installed using a variety of donated equipment including:  ULA racking components from UniRac, SolarWorld 175W modules, Eaton AC & DC disconnect switches, and WEEB grounding hardware from Wiley Electronics. 

Solectria generously donated a 95kW commercial inverter, which is mounted in our PV Lab Facility to demonstrate commercial-sized equipment. In addition, Fronius donated a 10kW, three-phase commercial inverter that's now mounted and wired to a three-phase (nonoperational) service panel and disconnect, where students can practice wiring.

We are also excited to install and rotate two new racking systems through our "Ballast Mount" lab station. Sollega and Renusol both generously donated their ballast pan system for this lab. This will provide class participants the opportunity to work with multiple ballast racking solutions as part of this lab station. The new racking from Sollega and Renusol will complement the existing racking solutions from UniRac and Schletter.  

Within the next months, we will become a beta test site for Power-One microinverters, and we'll finish a 6kW system with donated Abound thin-film modules.

April was a busy month for industry connections. Not only do manufacturers supply us with gear, they come to us for training and to train.

MK Battery just sent five of their sales guys and engineers to our training facility in Paonia for a customized training to help them better serve their customers.

Chad Medcroft, an early SEI alum, and Daniel East from Zep Solar recently visited SEI to provide an advanced training to our PV staff. As part of their visit, Zep Solar donated equipment for the new Zep II system that we will be able to demonstrate as part of an existing roof lab station. 

Flir generously comped a Level 1 Thermography training to SEI staff member, Kris Sutton, because of the innovative ways that we are using their products in our upcoming PV351L: Tools and Techniques for Operation and Maintenance Lab Week (Grid-Direct). They are also supplying enough thermal imaging cameras for our PV351L so that each participant can use their own.

Kaco graciously donated a classroom for our PV101 that was recently held in Grass Valley, CA. And next week, long-time supporter and Outback Engineer Darren Emmons is joining us for a Battery-based Lab Week as an instructor.

The Summer of 2012 is shaping up to be another incredible season of training. Whether you are new to the industry or a long-time installer looking to expand your skill sets, SEI has a training designed specifically for you. We invite you to come and train with us. We guarantee you will not be disappointed.

See you in Colorado this summer!

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