Wednesday, August 17, 2011

PV206: Solar Business & Technical Sales

PV206 Solar Business and Technical Sales is an excellent companion training opportunity to be taken with or after any of SEI's PV technical training. This workshop is a perfect fit for those currently working in the solar industry or hoping to work in solar sales to comprehensively cover business and financial topics not covered in our technical training. The class has been developed from the ground up with a strong focus on business / financial principals and non-technical topics directly aligned with the NABCEP PV Technical Sales task analysis.

Through insightful instruction from working experts in the field, SEI’s PV206 workshop covers marketing and sales techniques you will need to be successful in the solar biz. Concepts discussed in detail include customer qualification, marketing strategies, creating conceptual design proposals, system costing, incentives and rebates, cost-benefit analysis, financing options, and the non-financial benefits of photovoltaic systems.

Presentations from active experts in the solar marketing & sales industry from various companies across the nation provided in-depth practical & comprehensive information about real-life situations & circumstances in the solar business field. Lectures were personal & thought-provoking, & students received valuable insider knowledge from experienced & seasoned professionals, & had a good time doin' it!

We had a well-rounded class, with an eclectic mix of solar professionals. The course was dominated by our 3 main instructors, & peppered with a variety of local & national industry moguls.

Or fun-lovin' solar instructors; Andy Black, Jeff Spies & Liz Merry.

Andy Black of OnGrid Solar directed the first 2 days of the workshop with detailed instruction on industry standards, effective sales strategies & solar marketing tactics.

Jeff Spies, of SolarSpies Training & Consulting Services in Arizona, took control of Day #3 with more sales & marketing gems.

Liz Merry was our class director & kept things going in an orderly & mixed-up fashion.

SEI's Kris Sutton came in to give us the what's-what on OSHA guidelines & the importance of safety certifications.

We were even graced by a visit from SEI's Executive Director, who is an impressive public speaker & got us thinking about the future of solar energy & what it will mean for the good ole USA.

A powerful image.

I love this table.

And after 4.5 days on our butts in a classroom, a field trip to see the array @ the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, installed by Carbondale's own SunSense Solar, was a welcome change of pace.

An example of an 'anti-theft' nut that requires a special tool... you'd be surprised at how often panels are stolen from solar sites!

Only a fraction of the huge array that powers the Colorado Rocky Mountain School.


Thanks everyone for a fun & valuable class!

Friday, August 12, 2011

SEI's 20th Anniversary Party

For 20 years, Solar Energy International has been dedicated to hands-on and online solar training and renewable energy education in wind, micro-hydro, sustainable building and developing world technologies. Solar Energy International also works with grassroots and development organizations to promote sustainability and improve quality of life worldwide through viable outreach programs.

So where were you in 1991? Solar Energy International was just getting started teaching the world about renewable energy technologies. In celebration, SEI's co-founder and executive director Johnny Weiss, the SEI Board, and SEI Staff will host a fun, family-friendly old-fashioned BBQ potluck at Third St. Center in Carbondale, CO, the funky mountain town where SEI was founded 20 years ago.

The festivities centered around a free country-style BBQ, 1-4 p.m., outside of SEI's new workshop location at Third St. Center in Carbondale, featuring burgers, hot dogs, picnic fare, Revolution Brewery suds, lemonade, face painting, hula hooping, volleyball, hackey sack, live music by Carbondale's own All the Pretty Horses, solar cooking demos, and all-around fun for the whole family.

Here's a little recap of the fun:

Fresh local meat & vegetarian delights served up by SEI's master barbeque-ers.

Supplemented by a variety of solar cooked treats.

Beer, wine, lemonade & some pretty darn good mojitos were on the drink list.

Al served in SEI-labeled mugs for party-goers to take home.

Instructor Andy Black even shucked up some oysters brought fresh from PEI.

Thank goodness for the huge tent that provided shade from the sun to happy partiers.

And the festivities abounded on this gorgeous Colorado summer day... the form of face painting...


Creative crafts for kiddies...


Solar Powered Bubbles...


Not to mention the awesome local band All The Pretty Horses that played throughout the day.

And it would hardly be a work party without a word from some of SEI's most influential players.

Attentive guests paying homage to the wonder that is SEI.

I think it's safe to say a good time was had by all, since the party continued well into the night.!

Good job SEI ~ I was glad to be a part of your special day : )

Thursday, August 11, 2011

ESI Distributes Fuel-Efficient Stoves in Liberia

Empowerment Society International (ESI) is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing sustainable development innovations and knowledge to sub-Saharan Africa. ESI’s motto is to “Build a Sustainable World, One Individual at a Time…” Their mission is to empower individuals by promoting sustainable development in their communities, founded to empower the children of sub-Saharan Africa affected by war and conflict, and to treat, prevent, and manage aids and other diseases, to combat illiteracy, and defeat poverty.

ESI recently distributed over 1,000 Envirofit clean cookstoves to 60 Liberian families and refugees from Cote D’Ivoire throughout Liberia, 60 of which were granted or subsidized to families or refugees. Additional financing will allow them to introduce new technologies into rural communities (1) decreasing indoor air quality dangers and improving health, (2) decreasing deforestation by requiring women to collect less wood for cooking and heating, (3) decreasing the invisible costs women and children face in cooking and preparation labor, and (4) reducing rural poverty by participating in Envirofit’s carbon emission reduction revenue sharing scheme.

ESI is a small nonprofit run by a dedicated team of people committed to helping those in need in developing areas. Need an environmental org. to support, follow or promote? Look no further!

Read more about ESI & their projects in Sub Saharan Africa here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

10 Non-Travel Resources To Help You Travel Better

Recently back from a long month of non-stop PV training in the mountains, my thoughts naturally turn again to travel... that bug is always lying dormant right there at the surface, & I'm fairly obsessed with each & every nuance of travel. I came across this article by Boots & All while browsing my Travel RSS, & found that the advice is not only helpful for planning a 'Round The World' (RTW) trip, but in the organization of everyday life. It's so helpful, in fact, that I felt the need to save & share it. Check it out ~ I bet it'll rustle your travel &/or organization bug, too:

10 Non-Travel Resources To Help You Travel Better: "

Planning a RTW trip is a time consuming process, and travelers are always looking for ways to make their planning and traveling easier. In this technological age we live in, there are countless resources that can help us stay organized while planning a trip of this magnitude, and there are plenty more to help us once we’re on the road for an extended length of time.

Being able to accurately keep up with the budget, storing photos and music and books online, backing up our computers, and keeping up with friends and family back home are all aspects of a RTW trip made easier by the advance in technology.

Not all of the following 10 items were made with travel in mind, but these tactics and resources can help any long term traveler stay organized and in touch while on the road.

1. Evernote

This list is not in order of awesomeness, but if it was, Evernote would probably be at or near the top. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, referenced this app in his best-selling book. After checking it out and playing around with it, I am now addicted. You can access Evernote via a mobile phone app, on your desktop, and online.

Evernote is basically a note-taking, organizational, and storage system that can hold just about anything. Snap a photo with your phone, upload to Evernote, tag it, and any word in the photo is searchable. You can snap pictures of things like business cards and even handwritten notes, and then store them in Evernote with appropriate tags to keep them organized. The words in handwritten notes are even searchable, and between that, the tags, and the various notebooks you can create, it makes it super easy to find anything you have uploaded, even when you have thousands and thousands of notes! No need for a mess of post it notes scattered about your home or office again.

For travel, this can come in handy in a variety of ways. Many travelers are constantly jotting down notes in random places-notebooks, guidebooks, random pieces of paper, napkins, whatever we can get our hands on. If traveling with a smart phone, you can get rid of all the paper clutter. Someone suggests a great hotel? Open the Evernote app, type the name in, tag it, put it in the appropriate notebook, and bang, it’s available via your phone, on your desktop, or online at your account on See a yummy looking menu while walking around? Snap a photo of it, tag it, and you have a reminder for later, complete with the menu and address. Evernote has changed not only how organized I am in my travels, but also in my daily life.

...see the rest of the article here.

Check out Boots & All @

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grid-Direct Design & the NEC

Aaaaaahhhhhh the Grid-Direct Design & NEC class.... sigh.... such memories. This was a course to remember if ever there was one.

If only I could.

But I can't. I can't remember much of what I learned in the class because it was completely over my head. This class literally made me want to cry. The NEC (National Electric Code) Book is one of THE most terrifying things to ever be published, & getting to know it up close & personal has been an outright fright-show. Don't get me wrong, it all makes sense... all the sense of a psychiatrist prescribing meds to a junkie ~ I just didn't know I'd have to get my psych degree AND slam China White just learn to install PV! How could I know I'd have to memorize an 800-page code book before I get to climb up on a roof & hook up some solar panels?!?

But I won't despair.... I'll make it... It'll be a long tough road, but I'll pass that NABCEP exam if it's the last thing I do. And besides, you don't want people up on your roof who don't know what they're doing, right?? Well... rest assured that your credentialed PV installers know their stuff... & lots of supplementary numbers & in-depth math equations to go along with it.

These 2 women, who seemed so normal & sane during the previous installation class in Paonia, genuinely LOVE every aspect of PV design & the National Electric Code (NEC). And boy do they know their stuff. Amazingly well-informed & freakishly passionate about the topic, I can't imagine this class better taught by anyone else. Freaks though they may be...

Porn for the NEC-lover.

The Third Street Center in Carbondale, CO is a renovated elementary school turned earthy-groovy nonprofit center that houses a variety of regional artists, nonprofits & environmentally-minded for-profit organizations related to community collaboration.

The Third St. Cafe offers awesome coffee & tasty treats, with a cute little outdoor sitting area in the summer months. Very cute & small-town-homey.

The solar array on top of the Third Street Center, along with vented skylights & abundant recycling efforts power the majority of the building's electric needs.

Whitney O. (A) performs a popular rendition of the official Yosemite Sam Happy Solar Dance.

Students check out the inverter bank that converts this massive solar array's DC energy into AC power to be used in 'our world'.

The class took a little field trip to visit a local organization called SunSense Solar, who has been designing & installing residential, commercial & community solar power for the past 20 years. (

This huge array consists of 756 modules: 18 42-module sub-arrays, with 14 modules per string & powers the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) - a college-preparatory boarding & day school for high school kids in the area. The Jossman Building, which houses the CRMS Humanities Program, will use one third of the power, & the rest will be purchased by Xcel Energy and distributed to customers in Carbondale.

Isaac Ellis of SunSense gives us the low-down on the overall functionality of the array, which was installed in 2008 & is monitored closely online & in person.

This is one of 3 Sunny Boy inverter towers, each with 6 inverters; 3 strings per inverter. The Sunny Boys are unique in that they provide constant online tracking of the system's productivity, & will alert both customer & client via email when there is a significant change in power output.

A view of Mt. Sopris from the back side of the solar array.
Carbondale's pretty.

A much needed break taken with live music & picnic-ing at the lovely Two Rivers Park in the nearby town of Glenwood Springs.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Women's Solar Electric Lab Week

The Women's Solar Lab has been my favorite Solar Energy International (SEI) class thus far, & not just because it was a class of women taught by women (which I won't deny was a nice change in perspective), but because these women knew their stuff & we all worked together beautifully.

7 students installed 3 complete PV systems in 5 days, instructed by 3 very knowledgeable trainers @ SEI's solar education facility located just outside the tiny & beautiful mountain town of Paonia, CO. A gorgeous & functional training center, SEI-Paonia offers a expansive landscape of solar panel arrays & assembly structures, as well as outdoor classrooms, circuit panel demo dashboards & various other solar devices such as solar ovens, thermal water heaters, dryers, & even a solar work truck.

After a brief introduction & overview, the ladies got right to it, & it was 5 full days of hands-on work in the bright Paonia sun that resulted in the assembly & wiring of a 1) an 8-panel ballasted roof mount, 2) an 8-panel pole mount, & 3) a 10-panel enphase slanted roof system. There's nothin' like doin', & I we all learned a helluva lot about the physical aspects of panel installation.

This way to the PV Labs!

SEI's outdoor solar panel training facility, located just outside beautiful Paonia, CO.

An outdoor classroom, with dry-erase board & instructional circuit panel.

Angie uses a very cool device, the Solar Pathfinder, to determine potential shading factors throughout the year for the system we're about to install.

Whitney & I bring out the first solar panel for our ballasted roof array.

The team hard at work, tucking away wiring & making the last adjustments on our first install!

Ain't she beautiful?!?

Mama Kelly gives us the rundown on wiring specs for our next system.

Yeah ~ & this is the easy stuff : /

Preparing to get into the circuit boxes for the pole mount.

Tasha 2.0 draws out the wiring diagram for the pole mount system.

Karina wiring up the inverter for the ballasted roof mount.

Putting together the structure for the pole mounted PV system.

Now for the panels...

Girls being girls while taking a break @ the Revolution Brewery in town.

Angie & I secure the wiring on the pole mount.

Tasha & Monica perform finishing touches.

Isn't she lovely. (You too, Monica : )

Celebrating our successes with a solar cooked potluck : )

Mama Kelly demonstrates the importance of wearing a harness on a pitched roof.

Another hot day... the girls lag a little while getting started on the enphase system on day #5.

But we got 'er done, despite impending thunder storms!