This program became part of the Solar Living Institute in 1998 when our organization was founded. Our workshop program was an outgrowth of solar training workshops first offered by Real Goods in 1991 under the name of the Institute for Independent Living. Energy efficiency, solar photovoltaics, wind and hydro systems, passive solar design, water development, gardening and composting were introduced in these early intensive lecture and hands-on workshops. Classes took place on a nearby homestead where students lived, ate and learned together, creating close and lasting bonds among participants. Tours of local energy-independent homes added interest and first-hand knowledge to the class experience.
In 1996, the workshop program was revamped to offer one-day classes covering a variety of topics. Subjects such as "Realizing the Dream – Planning and Buying the Perfect Country Property," "Straw Bale Construction," "Sustainable Building and Eco-Design," and "Planning and Building Your Solar Electric System" became the most popular of many classes offered. By 1999, under the stewardship of the newly formed Solar Living Institute, workshop offerings had expanded to 25 classes held March through October. Some classes expanded to a full weekend of lecture and hands-on training with the how-tos of renewable energy systems and a host of natural building options proving to be all time favorites. Cob, rammed earth, and straw bale construction continued to pique the interest of students looking for alternatives to a conventional lifestyle. In 2000, in response to the California energy crisis, 223 students attended classes. In 2001, student attendance more than doubled over the year before with 552 students attending workshops. In 2002, attendance jumped again to 770 students. In 2003, there were over 1,000 students, and class offerings continued to expand. That year, with a grant from the California Energy Commission, the Institute provided 22 solar training workshops throughout the state of California. The program continues to grow, with enrollment in 2007 projected at close to 2000 students!
In 2006, we held our first of what promises to be many green career conferences. All of our new Solar Boot Camps for Beginners and Professionals sold out , as did many of our other workshops. We expect the demand for our workshops to remain high for years to come as people continue to realize the importance of changing their lives to more sustainable practices.
At the Solar Living Center, workshop students have built a cob pump house, our greenhouse and garden shed, a solar hot water system for the dearly departed intern dome, rammed earth and cob garden structures, stone compost bins, several demonstration straw bale and hybrid natural buildings, an herb garden, a Unisolar photovoltaic installation, and more.
To learn more about our solar training course & sustainability workshop offerings click here.