Solar Energy International has worked since its inception in 1991 to empower people with training in renewable energy. Entering the industry in a country where solar was just getting off the ground, SEI Instructor Karo Fernandez understands the power of passing on knowledge in solar, and the endless opportunity that comes along with access to a new industry.
“SEI has completely changed my perspective on what collaborating means,” Karo said. “It has given me the power to take what I’ve spent years learning and give that to students in just one week.”
Growing up in Costa Rica, Karo explained that there was not yet a major presence of solar technology or training in the country. A young trail-blazer, she created her own path into the industry. She discovered PV (photovoltaics) when she was 15 years old, in a magazine. “I read about how people were harnessing energy from the sun,” She recalled. “As a young Latina in Costa Rica, solar was not a thing, I had never seen a solar panel in my life, but after reading this article I was hooked.”
This sparked Karo’s journey in solar, which would eventually lead her to solar installer training with SEI. In college, because solar was not yet mainstream, Karo majored in mechanical engineering and continued with her own self-education, hoping to stay on a path that would lead her to solar. In addition to keeping up with the industry as much as possible, she maintained contacts and often read installation manuals.
As her pursuit for knowledge continued, she took a job with a utility company where she had the opportunity to learn more about electricity. During this time, Karo worked on a project where she was able to design and work on a 16 kW solar system, the largest in the country at the time. It was so innovative that a staircase was built for students and community members to see and learn about the system.
“The utility wanted to make the project an academic experience. It sparked something in me, which was this passion to explain things to people,” she said. “Teachers kept asking questions, and kept being interested, and that led me to become a source of information to people, I was happy to collaborate and enjoyed explaining.”
Karo went on from that point to teach workshops on solar in Costa Rica, which is how she connected with SEI. She now teaches PV101 and PV203 in person and online, and PV201L, in English and in Spanish.
“When I see students in my classes that have been wanting to learn solar for so long, SEI’s curriculum allows me to explain these concepts in a digestible way. It amazes me how I can compress 10 years of experience into a one week course,” Karo said. “I love to have the opportunity to be the instructor, to empower students the way I wish somebody would have empowered me when I was first learning about this.”