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

Posted by: april
August 29, 2011

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

In my previous blog as a solar training work-trader for Solar Energy International, I mentioned that I first heard about SEI as I was researching for some social good my old utility scale solar company could partake in. I thought, "Well, we have lots of money ... Let's help people with it." I was slightly naïve about these efforts but as I was investigating, I came across SEI and the class Renewable Energy for the Developing World (REDW). I continuously went back to the SEI website and checked out what their classes were all about. I gravitated to SEI because of its mission to educate others about renewables, and they seem to have really fascinating people involved in the organization.

After taking SEI's PV101 class, I started the in-person  workshop. This is the workshop I have been most excited for and it far exceeded my expectations. The special part about this class was that each day we had a couple of guest speakers who iRenewable Energy for the Developing Worldntroduced us to their work in other countries. We saw presentations about solar cookers and PV installations in Bolivia and Peru, rocket stoves around the world, forming solar policy in Thailand, solar in suitcases and solar cookers in Africa, and sustainable living in Nicaragua. Each presenter had something special to share about their different experiences whether it was about their successes, obstacles or lessons learned; in addition, they really pushed the importance in follow up and community input with development projects in order for them to succeed.

We also had a few hands-on labs. We made a LED bamboo light structure with SEI instructor Ed Eaton. It is such a simple yet impactful structure that can easily be made and applied to homes with no electricity. After making the LED bamboo light from scratch, I joked with my dad that his daughter is now an electrician. I think he laughed for a good 20 minutes because in his mind, he didn't think that his little princess had even picked up a hammer before.
Solar Training
My favorite lab was making a rocket stove out of cob with the nonprofit Trees Water & People (What a blast! No pun intended). I can't even explain how much fun we had getting our hands and feet dirty playing with earth (cob is made of sand, clay, straw and water). That was my first mini-experience with natural building materials. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty hooked now. If anyone is interested, you should really check out building rocket stoves and their applications. Deforestation, expenses and loss of time to wood collectionSolar Training along with health issues caused from burning excessive wood to cook are all HUGE problems in struggling areas.Solar Training These rocket stoves are 90% more efficient in using the wood, which in turn, protects the women and children from developing health issues while saving time collecting wood and money spent on this resource.

The next week I took SEI's solar suitcases class, which correlated with the previous class. We Care Solar had presented in the REDW class but in this class we actually made solar suitcases for the organization. Their vision started with Dr. Laura Stachel, an obstetrician and founder of We Care Solar, visiting Nigeria for a grad school project.

She noticed first-hand that pregnant women were literally being sent away bleeding to death because hospitals didn't have enough electricity to make a delivery. Absolutely shocked by this, she wanted to make a difference and bring electricity to these facilities in remote locations. Laura happened to be married to a solar installer/educator, Hal Aronson, and together they decided to do something about it! He designed a compact solar system that fits in a suitcase to provide lighting — headlamps, overhang lights, etc. — to hospitals.

Hal and another SEI instructor, Soozie Lindbloom, taught this workshop over three days. After going over the basics of PV electricity of system design, this class gave me a great introduction to battery-based design as well as how to make a mobile, efficient system. My favorite part of the class was the troubleshooting the last day. I thought I had Solar Traininga pretty good understanding of these systems until the instructor purposely jacks up your system and we have to fix it. Talk about a test!

I could talk forever about solar suitcases but the message is that this visionary system has an endless amount of possibilities for its impact on different communities. This system gets your imagination going for the endless possibility of its different applications it can have. I'm very interested in doing development projects, so I'm glad I decided to take this class.

These two workshops are great preparations for my classes to come at the end of August. I am going to Nicaragua for Laurie Guevara-Stone's solar and wind classes. I will be there for a total of three weeks. I can't wait!


Click here to read "A Summer of Solar Training Through the Eyes of a Work-Trader, Part One" by Tasha

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