SEI offering full slate of courses in alternative energy |

SEI offering full slate of courses in alternative energy

Solar Energy International has released a revamped catalog of alternative energy workshops for next year.

SEI, a nonprofit educational organization located in Carbondale, has offered a slate of renewable energy courses since 1991. New classes have been added and previously offered classes have been updated for 2000.

Technology in the renewable energy field is advancing at a rapid pace, and workshops have to be updated every session. “What was advanced five years ago is now basic,” said Ed Eaton, staff instructor and education project coordinator for SEI.

Subjects of SEI’s Carbondale workshops, most of which last one or two weeks, include Photovoltaic Design and Installation, Solar Home Design, Natural House Building, Renewable Energy for the Developing World, Micro-Hydroelectric Power, and a Women’s Photovoltaic Installation Retreat.

The courses are taught to small groups and offer hands-on experience. Classroom and lab work is augmented by tours, practical installations and case studies. Carbondale-based courses start between May 1 and the end of August.

Classes are taught by SEI staff instructors. Some, such as Advanced Photovoltaics and Micro-Hydro Electric, are also taught by guest instructors, specialists from institutions such as the National Renewable Energy Lab or the Southwest Technology Development Institute.

In recent years, SEI has begun to offer courses in other locations around the country. The Photovoltaic Design and Installation class is now offered in Tucson, Phoenix and Austin, as well as locations in Tennessee, New York and Washington’s San Juan Islands. “We’re all over the place now,” Eaton said.

SEI will also offer Photovoltaic Design and Installation as a six-week, online course, taught in three sessions. Eaton said the online class was offered twice in 1999. “We’ve had people from all over the world sign up for that course,” he said. A satisfied online participant from Ethiopia is featured in a testimonial in SEI’s course catalog.

This year, the online course is to be taught by longtime SEI staffer Ken Olsen from Mexico, where he will be on sabbatical.

Since 1991 SEI has taught sustainable energy classes to 1,366 students from 42 countries, Eaton said. The week of July 3, all alumni are invited to Carbondale for an reunion.

Coinciding with the reunion, SEI will host about 20 Native American and low-income youths for its Renewable Energy Youth Scholarship Program. The organization is asking alumni to volunteer to be mentors to these students.

The young participants will have the opportunity to learn about wind power, solar power and energy-efficient building techniques. But it won’t be all work and no play. The Youth Scholarship Program will also feature raft trips and hiking, Eaton said.

SEI is currently seeking donors and corporate sponsors to fund the program, Eaton said. The cost for the Youth Scholarship Program will be $1,500 per student.

The Women’s Photovoltaic Design Retreat is intended to provide women with a supportive learning atmosphere. A course description in the SEI catalog indicates that SEI hopes that having a women-only course will help participants overcome the barriers that keep some women from entering the solar energy field. One of those barriers is lack of familiarity with technology such as power tools, which men often grow up using.

Tuition is $500 for one-week courses and $950 for two-week courses. SEI offers a 10 percent discount for early registration and full tuition payment by Feb. 1.

“We encourage people to sign up early,” Eaton said, “because last year all of our classes were full.”

For more information call SEI at 963-8855.

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