Solar Forward empowers nonprofits and community groups in rural regions across Colorado (and beyond) with tools and expertise to kickstart solar markets. The program helps communities utilize the benefits of increasingly more affordable solar technology to encourage local economic development and resilience.



kW of PV installed
New systems built
Solar jobs created
Educational events

  • 400 kW of PV installed

  • 60 new systems built

  • 9 Solar jobs created

  • 50 Educational events


  • 100 kW of PV installed

  • 17 new systems built

  • 4 Solar jobs created

  • 16 Educational events


  • 876 kW of PV installed

  • 123 new systems built

  • 2 Solar jobs created

  • 6 Educational events


  • 294 kW of PV installed

  • 50 new systems built

  • 3 Solar jobs created

  • 0 Educational events


  • 23 kW of PV installed

  • 4 new systems built

  • 0 Solar jobs created

  • 2 Educational events

Empowering communities through Renewable Energy

Solar Energy International (SEI) is an educational nonprofit founded in 1991 that seeks to empower people, businesses, and communities through renewable energy. Offering online and hands-on courses, SEI has educated over 50,000 students around the world in how to design, install and maintain solar photovoltaic systems. SEI’s mission is a world powered by renewable energy!

As a mission-driven organization, we responded to the economic downturn following the collapse of regional coalmines in our hometown of Western Colorado. SEI started their Economic Revitalization Through Solar efforts in 2015 with the help of AmeriCorps VISTAs. As an outreach program under SEI’s nonprofit umbrella, Economic Revitalization Through Solar began to spur renewable energy adoption as a means of energy revitalization and economic development for our community. Since 2015 these efforts have launched three Solarize programs, created a high school trade-training program Solar in Schools, advanced the passage of C-PACE, and was awarded a bronze designation through the Department of Energy’s SolSmart program recognizing solar positive communities.

Three Solarize programs amounting to 400 kW of installed solar, $1.5 million invested in solar, 60 new PV systems, and local solar installation company doubling their capacity
Facilitated low-interest financing offerings with local banks
Hosted grant workshops for USDA Rural Energy for America for farmers and local businesses
SolSmart Bronze Designation for Delta County
Honored with an award from the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA)’s 2018 Solar Energy and Storage Awards
SEI started the Solar in Schools (SIS) outreach program to introduce concepts of energy usage, renewable energy technologies, careers and provide hands-on educational experiences to students and teachers in support of STEM initiatives in school. SIS provides solar lab kits, in class presentations, teacher trainings and even 10 hours of modular online educational material. In 2015 began a High School Career and Technical Pathways program with local high schools. This program brings SEI’s industry-leading training curriculum to high school classrooms, and brings high schoolers in rural communities to our lab yard in Paonia, Colorado.

In Delta County, SEI has:

Trained over 70 high school students and counting!
Established a partnership with local rural electric cooperative Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) to install five, 10 kW solar systems on area high schools part of the Solar in Your Community Challenge. DMEA committed $150,000 of unused capital credits for this program. The first system was completed at Paonia High School on April 2018 and offered hands-on installation experience to students
Received a Jared Polis Foundation Grant to conduct a solar and engineering training for area high school teachers in partnership with the Knowles Teacher Initiative.
Learn more about SIS on our dedicated webpage.

SEI implemented a C-PACE financing outreach program as a result of the 2016 decision by the County Commissioners to opt-in to the program. As a result, the first rural, Agricultural-centered C-PACE project in Colorado was in Delta County!


Solar Forward advisors help EVERY step of the way in planning a Solarize program. Every community gets a customized ‘Solarize’ logo, and a personalized timeline upon entry to the program. Below are some other benefits of the program.

FREE Application and Consulting

FREE for community groups to apply and receive consulting. The only cost is for your personal outreach campaign budget.

FREE Webpage Setup

FREE webpage setup from a technical consultant (up to 8 hours).

Complimentary Training

COMPLIMENTARY Solar Energy International industry-leading training for program partners, including our PV101: Solar Training- Solar Electric Design and Installation (Grid-Direct) valued at $845-995/class.

Complete Toolkit

COMPLETE toolkit with Solarize materials related to lead acquisition and management, solar pv technical support, marketing and outreach materials, financing resources and more. Toolkit contains over 20 documents compiled by industry expert consultants.

Technical Consulting

CONSULTING from a technical adviser from the planning stages through the duration of the Solarize outreach campaign.


Going Solar: Insight from the Experts

Renewable Energy Success Stories

Watch our webinar video resource: Going Solar: Insight from the Experts. In collaboration with the Colorado Energy Office, this free webinar provides a combination of the basics of solar energy and energy efficiency programs from trusted sources to demonstrate how we can effectively support the solar market in Colorado and beyond.

Through the Solar Forward program, the resources above and below are available for educational presentations, marketing material, FAQs, sign-up sheets, event best practices and MORE. 

Check out our latest webinar video resource: Renewable Energy Success Stories. In this webinar, you will learn about the tools and consulting offered through SEI’s Solar Forward program, as well as first-hand accounts from past participants. CEO presents on their Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) program for Gunnison County and the NW Regional Solar Project.

Through the Solar Forward program, the resources above and below are available for educational presentations, marketing material, FAQs, sign-up sheets, event best practices and MORE. 

How do I finance my solar purchase? Though solar makes financial sense for your home or business by increasing property equity, insulating yourself from rising electricity costs and immediately reducing your energy bills, it is still a big purchase for many. Thankfully there are many ways to finance solar whether conventional home loans or even the innovative C-PACE program or Property Assessed Clean Energy. We compiled a matrix of loan options as an introduction to what is available.

Finance Matric

Organizing a Solarize campaign consists of hosting a series of educational and community events. These events should explain program details and the benefits of solar while also being fun and engaging. The key is to not only sustain interest in your program but motivate people to go solar with Solarize! As part of our Solar Forward Toolkit we have an Event Guide which gives event ideas and guidance.

Solarize Event Guide

As a resource for solar adoption and development in your community, you are going to field all sorts of questions! Thankfully there are many great resources out there including Solar Forward FAQ that you can include in your outreach!

Solarize FAQs

In addition to the Event Guide included in our Solar Forward Toolkit, we have a Solarize Timeline guide to help structure your program over a 6-month campaign.

Solarize Timeline

What is a Solarize program? Solarize is a group purchase model that began in Oregon in 2009 and hence spread to hundreds of communities. The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative put together a playbook to highlight several case studies and provide information for other communities looking to overcome financial and logistical challenges of going solar with models like Solarize.

The Solarize Guidebook: A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV Systems

To effectively promote solar energy in your community you must understand the local context. The National Association of Regional Councils published a handbook exploring local policies to promote solar, solar in permitting and planning and methods to engage stakeholders

Regional Solar Deployment Handbook

In an addendum to this, they shared an impressive resource sheet called the Solar for Economic Development Toolkit, with case studies and guidance for financing solar, implementing programs and understanding solar’s economic impact

Solar for Economic Development Toolkit

How can I encourage renewable energy for local businesses?

Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy In Colorado

As part of the Department of Energy’s SunShot efforts, the Solar Outreach Partnership compiled an exhaustive resource exploring solar’s potential as an economic development tool. It also includes implementation resources for local communities and case studies.

Solar Outreach Resource Page


Interested in participating in this program? Apply now!

Apply Here


Colorado Energy Office and Solar Energy International (SEI) launch strategic partnership to support communities working to transition to clean energy

September 15th, 2020|Comments Off on Colorado Energy Office and Solar Energy International (SEI) launch strategic partnership to support communities working to transition to clean energy

STATEWIDE - Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 - The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) today announced it has launched a formal partnership with Paonia-based educational non-profit, Solar Energy International (SEI.) This strategic partnership will expand the reach [...]

Colorado Mountain Town Counts on Solar for Resiliency amid COVID Concerns

August 12th, 2020|Comments Off on Colorado Mountain Town Counts on Solar for Resiliency amid COVID Concerns

Solar Energy International’s Solar Forward program adapts the Solarize model with an off-grid program CRESTONE, CO -  When March 2020 hit, rural, isolated communities did not have the luxury of being shocked by the COVID-19 [...]

Resiliency needed now more than ever: Let’s keep pushing Solar Forward

May 11th, 2020|Comments Off on Resiliency needed now more than ever: Let’s keep pushing Solar Forward

As COVID-19 continues to have a sweeping impact across the solar industry and local economies, how can we support sustainability and economic resilience? Solar Energy International (SEI)’s Solar Forward program is continuing full-speed ahead [...]


Contact Program Manager Mary Marshall at [email protected] or 630-607-4352

Solar Forward Supporters

Alpine Bank
Bank of the West
George B Storer
Gates Family Foundation