Solar in the SchoolsAndrea joined SEI as a work-trader in 2010 when she enthusiastically helped to expand Solar In the Schools program into our local schools and communities. She now coordinates the SIS program with a focus on in-school energy presentations and hands-on solar labs. A strong proponent of experiential learning she has taught environmental education programs centered on field ecology, biology, energy literacy and sustainable agriculture for over 10 years. Andrea's goal is to strengthen renewable energy education in our local schools and be a catalyst to get kids out of buildings and excited about capturing energy from the sun. With her husband she is experientially raising three boys, watching a lot of soccer games and enjoys trail running and mountain biking.
Americorps VISTABeata Ramza joins SEI as the sixth Americorp VISTA. She is working on education and outreach for the Solarize and C-PACE efforts as a member of the economic revitalization team. The work will be a continuation of programs created by previous VISTAS in the efforts of community revitalization and empowerment through a solar market in the region. Originally from Chicago, Beata graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana with a B.S. in Environmental Science. She has always had a passion for sciences and worked as a student assistant for her university, helping the professors and students with geomorphology and biology lab work. She was lucky enough to spend one summer as an intern interpreter in Alaska leading visitors on guided nature hikes and narrated boat tours through the Chugach National Forest. This internship made her realize she also has a passion for teaching and sustainability. Beata is excited to be joining the SEI team and working to help others through sustainable energy and education.
Student Services & Certificate Program AdvisorAt Solar Energy International, Breccia Cressman enjoys working closely with students, advising on specific career paths and helping to choose appropriate training programs. This work fulfills her two passions, people and the environment. Her education is in Environmental Studies and Philosophy, and her hobbies include playing old-time fiddle music, salsa and kizomba dancing, outdoors and music festivals. Please contact her at any time at [email protected]
PV Curriculum Developer and TrainerBrian Mehalic is a NABCEP-certified PV professional and IREC-certified PV instructor with over 12 years of experience designing, installing, servicing, and inspecting all types and sizes of PV systems. He began his career as Lead Installer and Project Manager at EV Solar Products in Arizona, where he was directly responsible for the design and installation of over 150 photovoltaic systems, ranging from residential off-grid to commercial grid-interactive. For the past several years he worked as Project Engineer for O2 Energies in North Carolina, advising the developer on system design, modeling performance, and performing quality assurance inspections on over 23 megawatts of ground-mounted PV. Currently he is a curriculum developer and instructor for Solar Energy International and North Carolina State University, a frequent contributor to SolarPro and Home Power magazines, and an independent consultant providing services ranging from system design and quality assurance inspections to commissioning, troubleshooting, and maintenance.
Paonia Office ManagerChris, also known as Smitty, loves meeting the SEI students who come from all around the world. Chris has a golden retrievers, Peach, who take her for long walks every day. She also does Karate twice a week, and is presently a brown belt. Her three grandchildren live in the mountain town of Sun Valley, Idaho.
Director of Marketing and Alumni RelationsChris Turek has more than 15 years of marketing, online learning, and educational technology experience working with organizations all over the world. As a marketing and educational technology consultant, Chris has guided corporate, government, and non-profit organizations to effectively adopt new media strategies and online learning technologies to spread their message. He is a Sam Houston State University alumnus with a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree in Information Systems Management and Graduate-level studies at Texas A&M University in Educational Technology. When he isn't buried in his laptop and Solar Energy International's Online Campus, Chris and his wife, Monique, and his son, Ethan are out exploring the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain area. If he isn't on the ski slopes you can find him landing trout (catch and release, of course) at the beaver dams on McClure Pass between the Carbondale and Paonia, Colo., Solar Energy International (SEI) offices.
Student Services AdvisorCourtney has spent nearly a decade working with students in higher education, fulfilling her passion for helping students navigate their educational and professional goals. She's excited to bring her experience to SEI and to learn more about the dynamic solar industry. Courtney resides in Knoxville, Tennessee at the foot of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. In her free time, she can be found cooking and baking in her kitchen and then burning off the calories by chasing her two young sons.
PV Lab Manager
Solar Development Manager for Delta CountyGerald Espinosa joined SEI as the third AmeriCorp VISTA as an extension of the successful Solarize the North Fork Valley campaign, aimed at community revitalization through a solar economy. Gerald will continue working to expand community access to the benefits of renewable energy. Originally from Southern California, Gerald attended college in Massachusetts where he studied political science. As a congressional intern, community organizer, and legislative aid, Gerald explored various policy issues at local and national levels. But it wasn’t until this politico stepped into a classroom as a volunteer teacher did he have his “Eureka” moment. As part of a fifth grade science project on watershed pollution, his fifth graders took a fieldtrip to the Rockies. For most of the inner-city youth it was their first time in the mountains. Having spent his childhood camping in the Sierras, Gerald realized such environmental education is crucial for children and the planet they will inherent. Shortly after he began his own exploration of renewable energy. He is fascinated at the prospect renewables have for underserved communities and creating clean economies. Gerald joins SEI after a stint with Schneider Electric in California and India. Find him charging his EV car at SEI’s campus in Paonia!
Workshop CoordinatorJess is thrilled to combine her passion for sustainability and education with her compulsion to organize and color code in her position as Workshop Coordinator. Jess works closely with the PV Team, Student Services Team, and SEI Instructors, overseeing daily operations, logistics, and scheduling. Jess has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Gettysburg College and a M.A. in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University. Before joining the SEI team, Jess coordinated an outdoor educational program for the Museum of Northern Arizona and managed the Literacy Program for Delta County Library District. She loves meeting all the students and alumni of SEI and is inspired by their commitment to a more sustainable world. In her free time, she can be found trail running, gardening, or floating on the Colorado River with her husband and their son, Huck.
PV Curriculum Developer and TrainerJoe Villacci specializes in system design, installation methods, and performance verification of solar electric systems. He works as technical trainer and curriculum developer for Solar Energy International and is responsible in part for development of SEI's PV training facility. Joe also provides design review, commissioning, and troubleshooting services through his company, OnSight Solar Electric Services. He is an IREC Certified Master Trainer/PV and NABCEP certified PV installation professional. Joe spends most of his free time enjoying the outdoors and is an avid rock climber. Joe Villacci, IREC Certified Master TrainerTM for PV Installation Professional
SEI Instructor and Curriculum DeveloperKaro Fernández is a Mechanical Engineer from Universidad de Costa Rica, and has been working in the PV industry since 2009, starting as a PV project manager for Costa Rica´s Utility. Since then she has worked in regional PV market and industry development for Latin America, development of functioning business models for RE in developing countries, energy efficiency projects, PV project design, inspection and commissioning at residential and industrial levels. She currently also consults as a technical trainer for SEI, as well as in curriculum development and translations for the SEI´s Spanish Program. Karo is based out of Madrid, Spain, and consults for companies in Central and North America.
Student Services Counselor and RegistrarKathy Fontaine grew up in Texas before moving to California and Washington with her husband and two sons. After her sons were grown, she and her husband lived aboard a sailboat on Lake Union, Seattle, for a year before sailing down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal, and back up through the Caribbean to Texas Her sailboat was equipped with solar panels to recharge the batteries on board. She spent many blissful hours looking at the sun, then the solar panels, scratching her head and uttering AHA! It didn't take long before she was transformed into an avid renewable energy advocate. In 2001, Kathy participated in SEI's work/trade program, took seven renewable energy workshops, and was hired as SEI's Office Manager and Registrar.
PV Curriculum Developer and TrainerKris Sutton has worked full-time in the PV industry since 1999. Kris was a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer. He regularly teaches technical trainings on the design, installation of photovoltaic systems--both commercial and residential, with a heavy emphasis on safety. He has been employed as an installer, project manager, and owned his own solar consulting business working with utilities, architects, engineers, general contractors, building departments, and homeowners through all phases of the PV design and installation process. Kris serves as Solar Energy International’s Instructor-Trainer and helps develop curriculum. NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer
PV Electrical DesignerKyra brings extensive experience in PV project planning and design including full project plan-sets, project site analysis, production analysis utilizing PV SYST, layout design, system design, interconnection feasibility, and drafting support. B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
PV Curriculum Developer and Trainer
Laura Walters has been a member of SEI's PV Technical Team since 2006, updating SEI's internationally recognized PV training program curriculum. From creating the technical diagrams, to working on SEI's PV textbook series, and helping develop the exercises, quizzes and powerpoint presentations, she is busy ensuring SEI's materials are held to a high standard. She has a degree in Environmental Science with a focus on renewable energy and climate change from Dickinson College. She started the college's sustainability program, which is now being emulated across the country, by writing sustainability into Dickinson's strategic plan. In addition to curriculum work, she has taught Native American trainings, Solar In the Schools installations, and PV Lab Week an online PV courses. Her passion lies in international off-grid solar work, and she has recently completed trainings in Uganda and Mexico. In her free time she loves exploring new areas- locally and abroad!
Laura Walters, IREC Certified InstructorTM for PV Installation Professional