Creating a solar energy market in the Americas!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Solar Energy International conducts two hands-on PV workshops for Central Americans & Mexicans at the Earth University, Costa Rica. Almost one year has passed since Solar Energy International (SEI) began work on the Solar Professional Academy of the Americas (SPAA) program, a project funded by the US State Department under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA).

The APSA program is made up of 50 people from different countries, communities, and organizations throughout Central America and Mexico. Two separate workshops were held, each with 25 of the trainees, one ending on November 9 and the second session starting November 11.

These elite groups of trainees learned how to design, install and maintain solar PV systems, and how to successfully launch and administer businesses in this critically important industry. Since SEI began the training component of the APSA program in July, the 50 participants have completed two online courses; one focused on grid-tied PV, and the other related to battery-based PV systems.

Recently, 24 trainees attended a hands-on practical workshop at the Earth University- La Flor in Liberia, Costa Rica. The workshop provides an in-depth experience and understanding of basic applications of a PV system, both battery-based and systems and those with direct connection to the utility grid. The workshop objective was to achieve a fundamental understanding of the basic concepts necessary to work with all PV systems, including: system components, site analysis, PV module criteria, mounting solutions, safety and commissioning. The workshop covered the basics of sizing for a residential system with direct connection to the network and battery-based systems, applications and design criteria necessary for different types of charge controllers, batteries and inverters, electrical wiring, overcurrent protection, and grounding.   

Photo: SEI

The group of trainees, coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, was very engaged and eager to learn. Three days into the workshop, the participants had already worked on various solar labs including how to use a meter for measuring voltage and current of a solar module, and how to use a pyrometer, inclinometer, and a temperature sensor gun. They also worked on wiring modules in series and parallel and testing for voltage and current, and SEI’s favorite lab- the pump in a bucket where the trainees saw how the effects of shade and orientation affect module voltage and current. They additionally covered how to maintain batteries for solar systems, how to use a hydrometer and refractometer, how to make battery cables, and how to connect batteries in series and parallel configurations. Understanding the technical aspects of PV design & installation is only one part of trainees success.


Equally important for them and the Latin American region is an awareness of successful business strategies and policy initiatives. Trainees held discussions on the challenges and opportunities of growing a solar electric market in Latin America, and the important factors to consider in running a successful solar business. The participants worked together in groups by country to discuss these topics and develop solutions to any barriers they may have in their home countries. The group displayed much interest in overcoming the challenges of growing a solar industry and moving forward to a positive and fruitful solar future.

The APSA program could not be possible without the vision of the US State Department to create the Energy & Climate Partnership of the Americas and provide the opportunity to bridge the Americas with renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions. The last workshop ended on November 9 and a second group of 25 trainees arrived on November 11 for the same hands-on practical workshop.

For more information about the APSA program contact Matthew Harris, SPAA Director.

Follow the actions of the workshop!

Photo: SEI