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Solar Energy International: Where the Solar Training Magic Happens

Posted by: april
September 20, 2011

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

I mentioned in a previous solar training blog this summer that one of my favorite ways to start the training week is to go to introductions on the first day of class. This week's PV301L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Battery-Based) workshop, which started Sept. 19, was no exception.

The class feels like family. Walking in the room the first day, I immediately noticed familiar faces. On the break, there was a lot of catching up between students who took classes together or met in the online world this year.

There was also a lot of joking about potluck dishes during the introductions. It's SEI tradition to host some kind of gathering each week, either at our local pizza place (thanks Louie's!) or a potluck. Maybe it's stereotypical, but a class filled with a majority of dudes might be more likely to have a potluck with mostly beer and chips. In my many years of going to these potlucks, that has yet to happen. In fact, the food is pretty darn amazing.

Maybe it's because my other passion is food but I remember a lot of the guys this week by the food they brought to previous potlucks. There's Glen and his amazing spicy chicken dish from his home country of Tobago. Or Brian from Kentucky and his fantastic cheesy bean dip. And Edwin brought a fish and rice dish from Nigeria. Though unfortunately he's not here this week, last week Chuck brought an 18" rainbow trout he caught one night after class, along with elk meat from last year's elk.

Solar Training at Solar Energy International in Paonia, Colorado But I digress. Back to training!

I'm always so curious as to who takes our battery-based solar training, especially given that the majority of the U.S. market is grid-tied. When we originally designed our solar training program after much thought, research and talking to other industry experts, we focused the program on batteries remaining mostly separate from grid-tied systems. Batteries still very much have a place in the U.S. and around the world. These systems can be quite complicated, which warrants more time than just a few hours or a day to go over them. In fact, we offer 40-100 hours of training just for batteries, depending how much you want to know.

To be eligible to take this intensive Battery-Based Lab Week, the participants have to be hard-core solar students. They must complete as least two other trainings (or equivalent) - PV101: Solar Electric Design and Installation (Grid-Direct) and PV203: Battery-based PV Design. This class is an intensive hands-on class that begins with the simplest of battery-based systems and moves up to some of the more complex systems out there.

Who takes these classes? There's Steve who works at a leading PV installation company on the Front Range of Colorado. He already has a great job in the industry but wanted to expand his skills both for his company and to pursue a personal interest. There's a complexity to battery-based systems that really appeals to some. One of our instructors, a long-time off-grid installer whose work is impeccable, once told a class that it takes a bit of magic when installing an off-grid system - and Steve will learn some of this magic this week.

To be continued ...


Interested in joining us for PV201L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Grid-Direct) or PV301L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Battery-Based) in 2012? Start taking your pre-reqs now. Solar Energy International offers PV101 all across the country (San Diego, CA; Boulder, CO; Guemes Island, WA; Austin, TX; and Tucson, AZ) as well as many online sessions during the fall and winter months. Interested in battery-training? Then you must take our PV101 (or equivalent) and PV203: Solar Electric Design and Installation (Grid-Direct) solar training. Train with the pros.


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