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Solar Energy International (SEI) Helps Accelerate the Future of PV in Latin America

Posted by: chris
August 26, 2013
This week marks the midway point in Solar Energy International’s online course, Diseño e Instalación de Sistemas Fotovoltaicos (FV). This is the first course that is part of the Academia de Profesionales Solares de las Américas (APSA) program which will also include a second online course on battery-based PV systems and a 6 day hands-on photovoltaics workshop at the Earth University-La Flor in Liberia, Costa Rica.

The APSA program features 50 students from Central America and Mexico. SEI is happy to have participating, six students from El Salvador, ten from Costa Rica, eight from Mexico, six from Honduras, three from Panama, eight from Nicaragua, and nine students from Guatemala. Joining theses students in their residential PV design education are eight SEI instructors who combined have many years of experience in the PV industry and a wealth of knowledge to share throughout the program. The students of the APSA program together offer a special diversity in their professional careers and environmental values.

Roberto Gutiérrez-Sapo is participating in the APSA program with hopes to make a small difference in his home country of El Salvador. “I intend to learn about solar energy, to try influence everyone that I can, so that they adopt habits of using energy resources efficiently, and to motivate businessmen to invest in the importation and distribution of PV system components, with a social vision of business.”

The student body consists of educators, engineers, telecommunications specialists, representatives from NGO’s, college students, solar PV professionals, utility representatives, agriculturalists, and other renewable energy professionals focused on biogas, micro-hydro, and small wind power.

Within the course many of the students are actively engaged in communicating with each other, and learning more from each other on how they can work together in the future to be successful in their solar ventures. The dialogue with the instructors including very interesting questions and thought provoking debates have been positive and enlightening. As Lester Recinos from Guatemala says, “The exerpience has been great, and the information provided is very well presented. The support in the forum for questions has been excellent. The value of the information provided by both the students and the instructors makes the experience even more valuable.”

In one exercise students were tasked to identify three cases in which they can reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency in their homes.

Roberto Gutiérrez-Sapo again, “The most important thing I have learned so far is the importance of conserving energy before starting to design systems. . . I like the text that says that the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t need to produce.”

Another exercise asks students to examine the policies and incentives for solar electricity in their country. They are tasked with identifying how the solar market is structured in their country and to explain the main drivers and underlying constraints to solar electric market growth. As Jorge Torrente of Panama understands, “I would like to get contacts of people in the same field, and of PV system suppliers. Plus I’d like to get some tips on how to launch my own business in this field as the demand is increasing.”

In addition to these exercises the students are engaged in learning about the basics of electricity, utility bill analysis, implementing energy efficiency, grid-tied PV system components, series and parallel system configurations, solar site analysis, system mounting, grid-tied inverters, system design, systems grounding, wiring, surge protection, and system comissioning.

This full and comprehensive online course on grid-tied PV system design and installation will end on September 6. Two weeks later the students will begin their course on battery-based PV systems, and then in November we will all meet up in Costa Rica for the hands-on workshops where as Lester Recinos says, “The best way to supplement theory is with practice. I hope to put into practice everything that I learned theoretically and reinforce the little that I’ve done in practice. My goal is that by the end of the workshop I am able to design and install PV systems without any problem.”

SEI would like to thank the Energy & Climate Partnership of the Americas for sponsoring the APSA program, the Earth university-La Flor for providing a strong partnership in Costa Rica, and all the students who have taken the comittment to help shape a renewable future in Latin America.

To find out more about the Academia de Profesionales Solares de las Américas or future opportunities in Latin America contact Matthew Harris, APSA Director at matthew@solarenergy.org
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