Solar Installation Course in Costa Rica

After my trip to Africa, I had a brief stop in Dubai and Paris before Costa Rica.

DUBAI; Me in front of the tallest building in the world. 828 meters tall. Notice how the other skyscrapers in the background look like tiny ants compared to the Burj Khalifa.
PARIS; Met my mother in Paris for a few days on my way to Costa Rica.

The journey to my next destination, Costa Rica, had already taken 30 hours when I was ready for my last flight from Miami. The gate suddenly changed, and I was too tired to notice, so of course I managed to lose it. I was supposed to be in Costa Rica the next morning, ready to start my Solar Installation Course at 8am. I was so tired. Luckily, I found another airline that had a flight leaving only a few hours later, so finally, after 36 hours, I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

I went straight to bed, super excited to start my course the next day. I had signed up for The Solar Electric Lab Week through the organisation Solar Energy International. The same organisation I did my first online solar power course with them (which I absolutely loved), so I knew this was going to be great!

SEI, the organisation I will be doing all my Solar Power Courses with this year

The campus was so beautiful. There was a pool, a green park and a fully equipped training center with different types of roofs/mountings.

Campus Pool

This course basically takes you through the full process and understanding of how to install different solar systems. That includes all the theory, all the actual electrical and construction work, as well as the commissioning process, testing, calculations, metering and monitoring of the produced energy. 

Haha, loved my classmates t-shirt.

I´m not an electrician, and I will probably never work as a solar installer. But this year I´m trying to learn as much as possible about Solar Power. This is, after all, my own Solar Trainee year. I truly believe that learning the practical side of solar, will make me a much better engineer. I want to gain the full understanding of my profession. That includes the hands on electrical work.

In engineering school, I always envied the electricians in my class, as they seemed to have a much better understanding of it all. It´s hard to picture how everything works when you’ve never actually seen it in real life. Engineers don´t get practical work experience in college like for example nurses and teachers do. So, I figured this course was the perfect opportunity for me to get my hands dirty and learn the full installation process.

The first few hours, we spent learning about safety in a classroom.

We were divided into two groups, and mine started with the Ground Mount System. We built the construction from scratch, did all the electrical work and connected everything. Afterwards we did all the testing, commissioning and calculations in real life conditions. It was all so interesting. I never knew how thorough electricians have to be. When you install solar in someones garden or on someones roof, they want it to look good. This part really challenged my patience, as only a few millimeters could make a difference in the construction.

Team working on the ground mount
Ground Mount Construction all done!
Doing the electrical work for the Ground Mount System

The following week we went through two other systems; Solar Edge optimizers on inclined roof and Microinverters on inclined roof. The fact that this course offered three very different systems, gave me a great understanding of which cases one should choose one system over the other. Learning their strengths and weaknesses, and how they work (and don´t work in some cases), will for make me a better design engineer in the future.

Me on the roof of the micro inverter project.
Lunchtime at the local restaurant
My team working on the Solar Edge system
Happy ”electrician” testing the systems with power on

I did coursework every day for 8-9 hours. The afternoons I spent exploring the surrounding cities with my classmates. We went to two cities Paraiso and Cortago, had dinners together and became a great group.

The afternoons were spent exploring the nearby towns with my classmates
FINISHED with all the projects
Successfully graduated from SEI´s Solar Energy Lab Week

Its crazy how much more you can learn when you get your hands on and see it all in real life. By doing this course, my understanding of the different systems and components have become so much better.

The Graduates and our teachers

The rest of my time on this continent, I have travelled around Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. (If you are interested, my Norwegian travel blog will be updated with more of the non-solar-related parts of my trip There are also constant picture updates on my instagram stories: @skaatans.

Here are some photos from the rest of my trip to this lovely continent:

I travelled to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, together with some of my classmates!
Hung out with beautiful creatures like this one in Manuel Antonia National Park, Costa Rica
Went surfing in the sunsets in Jaco, Costa Rica
Went swimming in waterfalls in Montezuma, Costa Rica
Went snorkelling in Tortuga Island, Costa Rica
Went to the Bocas del Toros Islands in Panama
Went to Yoga Camp in Nicaragua
Hiked up old Volcanoes in Nicaragua
Saw real lava floating in the very active Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua
Made so many great friends
And saw some more amazing sunsets with volcano views

This part of my trip has been absolutely wonderful! I have learned so much more about Solar Power, and about myself. I love travelling, and I am so grateful I get to combine my two passions for a whole year!

I am now heading to New York to meet some friends, before I go home to Norway for 10 days. Next up on my Solar Journey is Europe in May and June! I am so excited to explore all the solar projects in Europe, attend the Intersolar Conference with Glava Energy Center and meet all the interesting people in the solar business.

  • Christina
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