Houpt takes reins at SEI
December 24, 2011
CARBONDALE – Leadership changes at Solar Energy International (SEI), effective Jan. 1, will move founder and executive director Johnny Weiss into the position of advising co-founder, and tap former Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt as the nonprofit’s interim executive director.
Founded in 1991, SEI has trained more than 20,000 people in the U.S. and 90 other countries in renewable energy technologies through hands-on workshops and online courses. The school has campuses in Carbondale and Paonia.
As a staff advisor, Weiss will focus on program design and business development.
“His rich knowledge of the solar industry will continue to allow SEI to provide professional educational programming internationally,” Houpt said.
Weiss said he remains dedicated to spreading a working knowledge of renewable energy skills to people around the world.
“I am so proud of SEI, both our new team and all of our past accomplishments,” Weiss said. “Our mission to help others learn about renewable energy is stronger than ever, and it has never been more important.”
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Houpt said she views her new position as temporary, but said it could take up to a year to select a new executive director for SEI.
She said the organization needs a leadership team with strength in three key areas: the delivery of education in diverse settings, the workforce needs of the renewable energy industry, and an administrative organizer who “can pull all that together.”
“It’s premature to say whether I would be in the running” for a permanent position as executive director, she said. “We will be looking at the people resources we have now. That will help us determine what type of person we need in that position.”
After losing her re-election bid for a third term as county commissioner in the 2010 election, Houpt has been working as a consultant on oil and gas development issues. She joined the SEI board of directors in April and was elected board chair this fall.
“SEI is a wonderful organization and it has some really exciting things going on,” Houpt said.
“I have worked so long on oil and gas issues. The other side of that conversation is renewable energy and conservation, so it feels really good to be working in that industry,” Houpt said. “Now, more than ever in the history of our nation, is the time for all of us to make a true commitment to renewable energy.
“SEI offers a broad spectrum of instructional opportunities for people interested in pursuing a profession in the new energy economy, and I am proud to help lead the board and staff in providing these opportunities,” she said.
In its two decades in operation, SEI has expanded its training curriculum to gain international recognition in renewable energy education. It has teamed with the U.S. Department of Energy in the Solar Trainers Network, offers a solar professionals certification, provides contract training and business-to-business programs and is part of the Colorado Renewable Energy Professionals Academy.
SEI offers courses in Third World and developing countries and on Native American lands in the U.S., and runs a Solar in the Schools program that trains classroom teachers on how to teach youngsters about the principles of solar energy.