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A Summer of Solar Training Through the Eyes of a Work-Trader, Part One

Posted by: april
July 25, 2011

Tasha Azizi, SEI Work-TraderBy Tasha Azizi, SEI Work-Trader

This summer, I recently completed two solar training classes with Solar Energy International (SEI). Although the classes about renewable energy for the developing world caught my attention at first, I always wanted to learn more hands-on, technical skills about solar.

This summer I made it happen.

I have worked at a utility-scale solarcompany, a green building and supply store, as well as a wind developer prior to my workshops with SEI. I am not an engineer or an electrician to say the least. My background is more on the business end with finance, marketing and proposals in the renewable industry so actual solar installations are a whole new thing for me. With that in mind, I decided to take a series of classes, first starting with the basics, PV101: Solar Training Design and Installation for Grid-Tied Systems and eventually a series of classes for outreach projects.

I can't say enough about how my initial class laid a strong foundation for my solar installation and design knowledge. Our two instructors, Brad Burkhartzmeyer and Kelly Larson, came from decades of photovoltaics (PV) installation experience and own their own solar businesses. I thought the class was challenging but now when I read my old notes, it all seems so simple. The way that the instructors reiterate and really try to reach all different learning styles, allows the information to just soak in. Before you know it, you start "speaking the solar language" as they say.

We had people in this class from all over the states and even international students from South America and Morocco. My peers came from a variety of careers such as electricians, construction workers, university students, natural builders and others just searching for new skills. The diverse group of students opened the door for interesting conversations during social/networking events after class. I had a great time learning from the other students and hearing their stories.

SEI Women's PV Solar Training Workshop

Although this class is said to be the classroom portion of solar training, we were also able to go out to the SEI PV Lab Facility and do a few labs. We played with combining mini-modules together, solar water pumping, solar pathfinders and such. I really enjoyed the preview to the lab week and seeing how things like shade affect your systems performance.

Remember: The most important lesson in the world of solar design is that shade is evil!

My hands-on experience continued into the second week of my PV introduction with the women's hands-on solar training workshop, PV201L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Grid-Direct). This was a really special class because women are rare in this field. We had a group of seven distinctly different women - a solar cooker expert, natural builder, language arts teacher, journalist, and others just passionate about learning this field.
SEI Women's PV Solar Training Workshop
Working together with such a diverse group of women was a great experience. We worked unbelievably well as a team and installed three grid-tied systems: a pole mount, roof-mount and ballasted roof-mount. I had a blast mastering the toolbox and actually attaching modules. It definitely beats sitting behind a computer all day! And it's one thing to learn in a classroom (which is definitely important), but to actually get hands on, practical electrical experience was priceless. The lab week really brought to life what we had learned.

I have loved my experiences with SEI so far from the knowledge and skills I have gained to the variety of people I have met like the SEI staff, instructors and fellow students. I have a few more classes coming up in the next two months such as Solar Business and Technical Sales, Battery-Based Design and the kicker is three weeks in Nicaragua installing solar PV, wind system and working with solar cookers! I couldn't be more excited about that trip starting at the end of August. I will keep you guys posted on how those go.

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If you're interested in solar training and renewable energy education, click here to check out SEI's workshop schedule and find an online course or hands-on workshop right for you. To learn about green technologies, SEI offers a free Intro to Renewable Energy course, at your fingertips: http://www.solarenergy.org/free-online-intro-renewable-energy-course


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