Carbondale’s SEI shines a light on solar energy |

Carbondale’s SEI shines a light on solar energy

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Soozie Lindbloom, says part of her job at Solar Energy International (SEI) in Carbondale, is getting a whole lot easier.

Lindbloom is the coordinator for SEI’s Solar in the Schools Program (SIS), which promotes resource conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy education. The program provides instructional aids and SEI volunteers to teachers in local schools to help educate students on the expanding solar energy technologies.

When Lindbloom first started working for SEI in 2002, a lot of her time was spent marketing, she said, but not anymore.

“Word is out,” Lindbloom said. “Especially in this valley. People are calling me all the time and now and instead of me trying to get presentations scheduled for us, I’m trying to find volunteers to help fill the need and demand.”

According to Lindbloom, the SIS Program began about six years ago to spread the message of renewable energy possibilities throughout the community. Since then, SIS has received a very good response from not only the teachers in the community, but the students as well.

“What we’ve found is that (students) want to make a difference,” Lindbloom said. “They are just craving this information, as are the teachers.”

The program provides educational information through teacher training, school presentations and solar installations, materials, and a Lending Library which allows teachers to use scientific kits that demonstrate specific solar energy technologies. Since starting with the Lending Library in 2007, the kits have been used close to 500 times.

“What I’ve seen through feedback from the teachers is that what started out as a program where we just gave presentations in schools here and there, has turned into a sort of multi-faceted program with many aspects,” Lindbloom said.

But SEI also gets involved with many special projects where it helps with a solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system, and the students help.

SEI will go to the schools and help install a 1 or 2 kilowatt solar PV system.

“We’ll go in and not only install the system, but we have the kids help us,” Lindbloom said. “We really try to make sure it’s a little more holistic that way, and when the kids get to help install it, wow, they really love it.”

But that is about the only time SEI does installations, according to co-founder and executive director Johnny Weiss.

“We get calls on a regular basis from people asking if we can come work on their place,” Weiss said. “Our job isn’t to compete with our graduates in the industry. Our job is to train people to go to work for the companies that do this work.”

That is SEI’s mission, to educate people on the solar energy possibilities that are available. And it’s grown from this community to a national and international program.

SEI’s Renewable Energy Education Programs, a separate educational program from SIS, offered 57 hands-on workshops and 12 online courses, with more than 2,000 participants in 2007 alone. Since 1991, more than 6,900 people from all 50 states and 66 countries have taken part.

But the SIS Program is very valuable and has really grown in popularity over the years.

“The beautiful thing is that it enhances their desire to learn about science and experimentation,” Lindbloom said. “It’s so easy to teach and to see people’s excitement when you hold a panel up to the sun and an appliance starts working. People want to know more instantly.”

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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