Solar in Schools in Paonia, Colorado

Solar Energy International saw a problem in rural communities and created the Solar for Schools High School Solar Career and Technical Pathway program.

Solar for Schools High School Solar Career and Technical Pathway program.
Solar for Schools High School Solar Career and Technical Pathway program. Image from Solar Energy International

Across the country cities are making the commitment to go towards 100% renewable energy. Of course, this has been a challenge to rural communities. Counties like Delta County in Colorado have been historically coal-producing and it is in the middle of its transition into solar energy. With this transition there have been some bumps, but things are beginning to pick up.  

Since 2015 the Solar Energy International (SEI) has been dedicated in helping rural communities who are in this struggle, and they use their resources to help develop its surrounding communities who are rapidly evolving industries, and the industry of their expertise is solar.  

Solar Energy International saw a problem in these rural communities, and with the schools in these communities. From this they created the Solar for Schools High School Solar Career and Technical Pathway program.  

SEI is using this program to bring solar training to students in rural high schools. It has so far been widely successful on multiple fronts. In the United States it has become the fastest growing program to students whose families and communities have been affected by the recent coal mine closures. It’s piqued interest in STEM-related fields for the participating students, while at the same time garnering community support for solar and renewable energy awareness.  

The latest project from SEI is in Paonia, Colorado, where they took their previous success in schools around the country and extended it with the help of their Rural Electric Cooperative, Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), and the Montrose and Delta Country School Districts to install solar onto six local high schools during 2018.  

SEI plans to include 200 high school students to help install the solar arrays, and to give 200 students a whole year of learning about solar in their science and math classrooms. The DMEA has pledged over $150,000 of their unused capital credits to fund this charitable pursuit in support of solar and high school students.  

The plan is to help teachers learn about Solar through a SEI hosted 4-day teacher training, so they can be knowledgeable enough to teach their students. There is also a future partnership with the Knowles Teacher Initiative to host a solar and engineering training session for the high school teachers who will be involved in this, so they can add more to their lessons.  

Solar Energy International has been around since, 1991, and now because of the changes in the economy, and people’s environmental awareness increasing dramatically over the years, the group has grown significantly and because of that they have pledged to continue to provide solar to communities around the World and the US.  Now with the high schools they are helping in Paonia, Colorado their plans are now going full circle as more and more communities slowly, but surely move towards solar.  

As the solar industry continues to develop there is expected to be an increase in non-profits dedicated to helping communities that might struggle to become a part of this change. If a solar revolution is going to occur, it can only happen if there is a mixture of business, governments, and non-profits working towards this goal.  

So far, it’s working. And as the world moves towards solar it proves that it’s going to take all three to get the job done. That’s why Solar Energy International’s work is important, because the goal of helping rural communities actually benefits everyone in the United States, and is a great role model as we continue to look toward a more environmentally clean future.  




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