Colorado-based nonprofit Solar Energy International (SEI) wants to expand its educational programs to support more solar training internationally in the poorer areas of the U.S. and at Native American reservations. To do this, the organization’s executive director, Johnny Weiss, recently issued an appeal to supporters.
The organization wants to increase the amount of scholarship funding it can offer to low-income people, adapt it’s free, basic renewable energy course for use in high schools, create a Spanish language version of a class that trains people how to build solar systems with batteries, and among others, add bathrooms at its training site in Paonia, Colo. It’s also expanding training programs for the Solar Suitcase designed to light health clinics in developing countries, allowing births to be carried out at night, when previously there was no light.
With the basic course, ER 100, the organization is trying to make it accessible and enjoyable for high-school students, according to SEI Development Associate Holly Loff. It’s also trying to make sure that teachers can track students’ progress in the solar classes.
“We want to expand these projects into more schools,” she said.
SEI also performs trainings on Native American reservations.
For instance, Jeff Tobe, the group’s Native American program manager, trained 20 people at SEI’s White Earth Reservation project in Minnesota a few weeks ago, according to Loff.
“It was a 2-day, hands-on field related training for students,” she said.
The students live and work on the reservation and are all enrolled in renewable energy class. By participating in the solar installation, it fulfilled their onsite training requirements.
The installation was completed at Native American activist and former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke's home, from which she runs two nonprofits. That program also is replacing a battery bank at another reservation, the Dan Ranch in Nevada, she said.
“We are looking for [supporters to give] $350,000 for 2012,” said Loff said.
The organization is looking for grants and individual giving, a departure from how it has operated previously.
“In the past, we have really worked off of earned income from our commissions. We decided we wanted to work more from contributed income to be a more sustainable organization with the changes in the economy,” she said. “There’s no problem with our economic sustainability; we just thought it was wise to diversify our funding.”
Image courtesy of Solar Energy International.