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Solar Energy International's (SEI) Annual Instructor Training - We Are Ready - Are You?

Posted by: chris
March 25, 2013

In an extremely anticipated annual rite of passage, Solar Energy International’s pool of PV instructors – all highly decorated, widely respected, infinitely knowledgeable, and all-around super-fun and interesting folks – arrived at the home office in Paonia, Colorado for the 6th annual SEI Instructor Training.

Here at SEI we value the education and professional development of our instructors just as much as we value and promote rigorous technical training for our students. This annual professional development event is the cornerstone to ensuring SEI's cadre of instructors are up to speed on topics within the renewable energy sector and instructional tools and techniques.

Each year, as winter begins to yield to spring, the group reconvenes to learn about the latest PV industry developments and to further refine teaching techniques for in-person and online classes. For the 2013 annual training, several day-long technical geek-out sessions were followed by roaming parties among the restaurants, watering holes, and other fine establishments that help make Paonia such a fun and welcoming home-away-from-home.

Old friends were reunited and, as if a year hadn’t passed they quickly fell into intense discussions about the electrical code and best practices for installing PV systems. Pictures of the good, bad, and the ugly that have been encountered in the last year were shared. Talk of skiing, and the approach of mountain biking season, filled the air.

But of course the focus, as always, was on professional development, and how to become better educators for the wide range of students that take SEI’s wide range of classes. We know that we all have so much that we can learn from each other, so the days consist of a combination of presentations by instructors, outside experts, and small group breakout sessions. It was a full schedule; this year topics included:

  • A peek at the upcoming 2014 National Electrical Code (thanks Bill Brooks!)
  • A crash course in structural engineering (presented by the impeccable Ken Gardner)
  • Breakout sessions on how to teach sections of the curriculum that students (and instructors) have the most difficult time with
  • A preview of an upcoming NFPA mobile “app” for PV installers and inspectors
  • An update on the state of the union of SEI (and the state of the union is strong!
  • Care of our newly non-interim Executive Director Kathy Swartz)
  • A look at the effects of age on the first generation of grid-direct PV systems (thanks Zeke Yewdall and Orion Thornton)
  • A case study on deploying systems in developing world applications and training the local workforce (Chris Brooks you are doing great work!)
  • A “tour” of commercial systems focusing on installation errors, best practices, and lessons learned (courtesy of David Del Vecchio and J.R. Whitley)
  • A look at gasifier generators that use wood chips and other biofuel sources (presented by Kelly Larson)
  • Self-examination and communication skills (thanks Gary Handlin, obviously we need more time for the full presentation!)
  • Demystification of weather data (care of Rebekah Hren)
By week’s end everyone had learned new things, rekindled valuable relationships, and, care of Linda’s Bistro, had one last celebration before parting ways and heading home, looking forward to the summer, and, sooner than you’d think, the 7th Annual SEI Instructor Training in 2014!
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