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Solar Training Opens a World of Possibility for Business Manager in Costa Rica

Posted by: april
February 17, 2012

By Joris A. Brinckerhoff, Manager, Costa Rica Entomological Supply
Member, Sat Yoga Institute

Installing solar and utilizing the sun's power as a clean energy option requires a realm of solar training knowledge and skill sets I have long lacked. As a participant in the creation of Sat Yoga's self-sustaining ashram and eco-village in Costa Rica, however, the design and implementation of a functioning solar system somehow came to fall on my shoulders. What now?! Books are useful but data is not always readily converted into either DC or AC. Expert consultants abound, each I found, with his own markedly distinct proposal and budget to be judged on its merits. How is one to judge - or express what one wants, or imagine what's feasible - when one can't discern the first questions to ask? For months inertia prevailed.

As fortune would have it, a friend mentioned Solar Energy International's hands-on workshop, RD201: Renewable Energy for the Developing World, to be offered at Rancho Mastatal, only a few hours drive. I had to learn about solar energy and for years I had wanted to visit Mastatal and get to know its many offerings. Manna from heaven!

Solar Energy International Costa Rica Solar TrainingSEI's week-long course might equally have been titled, "Sit Down Joris and Let Us Patiently Explain and Show You Everything That You Need to Know to Get Started With Your Own Solar Energy Installation." From balancing amps and watts to measuring output and demand; from drawing schematic diagrams in class to installing conduit and wire in dark dingy rafters; from discussing the sighting of panels to situating the panels on the (high!) roof (yikes!), the workshop offered a good balance between the necessary theoretical knowledge and ample hands-on practice. Many of my fellow students were first time users of wire strippers and battery powered drills and screwdrivers. Most, I felt, were deeply impacted being introduced to people living in extraordinarily rustic conditions and receiving the feeling the sense of gratification that comes from having selflessly served those less fortunate. All, I know, bubbled continually with enthusiasm not only for the subject matter but also the sense of shared camaraderie. Our class consisted of a group of people of diverse ages, backgrounds, training and interests. Nonetheless, neither the serious sense of purpose, nor the laughter, ever faltered.

Having completed SEI's one-week class, I'm far from a solar technician. I do have both my feet on the ground though. In the weeks since I have managed to ascertain what we can reasonably accomplish with solar electricity. In our case we can run all our 110 volt needs in the ashram's main building, except for heating water, from solar charged batteries. We can accomplish a great deal more if we convert to DC refrigeration and LED lighting. I've completed the circuit diagram, identified the components we need and situated the panels on our roof. I've been able to ask for budgets from professionals to install a system following the parameters I've established. No longer am I daunted by the prospect of somehow "going solar" and wondering what that might mean. Most importantly, I can respond meaningfully to the professionals' comments or ask the needed questions. I expect that in another month we will have "gone solar."

I look forward to assisting others in our area who may be interested in pursuing solar energy. It is my opinion, living in the highly turbulent times we do, that it is essential we decouple ourselves as best we can from both the literal and the metaphorical "grid." There are many ways to begin this process but solar energy is certainly a great start!

Register for this Session

RD201: Renewable Energy for the Developing World

March 10-18, 2012, in Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica



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