Sonja Burgal

Sonja loves being surrounded by trees, water, and meditating to the sounds of the earth. Originally from Los Angeles, she knew that the urban setting is not for her and set off to find a place to call home. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis she lived all around the US, finally settling back in Northern California.

In her free time she enjoys biking, hiking, practicing yoga, cooking and eating Indian and Thai food, making her own natural health products, spoiling her cat, playing viola, and exploring the coast



Toni Lauderach

Toni graduated from UNISA with a BTech in civil engineering in 2014 and was able to do it while working on the roads and living in remote locations. He gained 5 years of field experience working for a large civils contractor based in the rural Transkei and Ciskei regions of South Africa. He is on a mission to gain skills and knowledge in Sustainable System Design (designing smart living systems allowing us to get back in touch with mother nature wherever possible.)

Toni loves the outdoors, bodyboarding, art and music and has a keen interest in technology which can help shift our species to more sustainable practices in every walk of life. He has attended many workshops through the SLI and is involved in numerous projects and groups of like minded people around the world. He wants to transfer his knowledge and skills, like a conduit, with the hope of assisting in creating an autonomous, healthy society.


 Patrick Boyle

Originally from Massachusetts, Pat received a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from University of Alaska Anchorage. During his studies he worked summers in construction and mining all over Alaska and upon graduation moved to Hawaii to start a career as an engineer with a civil contractor. After a few years of managing highway construction projects Pat wanted to transition to a more sustainable field. Always wanting to get as much field experience as possible before going into design Pat decided to come to the the Solar Living Institute to get hands-on experience in solar PV installation before working in the industry as an engineer. After his time in California he hopes to continue his education and receive a Master’s related to renewable energy design and development. In addition to solar Pat is looking forward to to helping with the many projects on site in order to learn about natural building and aquaponics.


Jared Diehl

My name is Jared Diehl. I was born in Portland Oregon and grew up on far east side of Washington in Spokane. With great enthusiasm, I spent much of my youth outside whether it be playing sports, going on backpacking trips with my parents, swimming or just rummaging through fields by my house. While still currently enrolled at Western Washington University, I am currently finishing up my degree with a hands-on internship here at the Solar Living Institute and will be receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Business and Sustainability at the end of the summer term. Although I was raised with little knowledge or understanding of sustainability prior to attending college, my time at WWU in Bellingham Washington was an eye-opening experience. My community, professors and fellow students led me to develop a passion I never thought I would possess when it comes to environmental knowledge. With aspirations of pursuing a career in solar energy, the Solar Living Institute has opened more doors than I could imagine and I am looking forward to any new experiences that come my way.

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Chris Abey

Chris Abey is a Faculty Member at the University of Benin, in the ancient city of Benin the capital of the then Great Benin Kingdom and now Edo State of Nigeria, from where several cultural artifacts were removed to several parts of Europe (particularly Britain) during the Benin Massacre of 1897. Chris Abey, is currently a PhD Candidate at the Nnamdy Azikiwe University Awka, in the Eastern part of Nigeria from where he joined SLI on a research/training visit. Born in the southern city of Sapele, Nigeria, he grew up mainly in the countryside of several communities in the Northern, Western and Southern parts of Nigeria.

While hoping to get more experience in the US; he plans to implement and expound on knowledge gained as soon as he returns back home.  He says of SLI "A particular training of interest and learning opportunity may be slow in coming, depending upon the timing of your arrival at SLI.  But given the facilities, research data, training in general sustainability practices, exposure to a solar and sustainable environment complete with hands-on practice and networking contacts that SLI affords Interns and Research/Training Visitors, that when such training and experiences eventually lends itself in actualization, one realizes that every resource and time and effort expended at being here at the SLI, are resources, time and effort very well expended and spent".


Jade Swor

I was born and raised in Florida and moved to the west coast to go to school a few years ago. I like to volunteer in service projects, go on meditation retreats, meet interesting people, make music, travel, dance and dream.

Being from a big family and delighting in observing the natural world, it has always fascinated me to discover the spectrum of ways people interact with the environment around them. This has led to me to cultivate a deeper experiential understanding of permaculture, or sustainable living design. I recently graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington gaining a BA in applied cultural anthropology and sustainability. The most profound takeaway from a liberal arts education has proven the productivity of interrelationships rather than the limited contribution of an individual part acting alone. I am very grateful to have discovered the Solar Living Institute as it is living proof of this realization as well as a center with tangible permaculture projects in progress.



Nathan Dorn

My name is Nathan Dorn, and I am from Waunakee, WI, a small town right outside of Wisconsin’s capital, Madison. I am currently a sophomore in college, attending the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Before this internship, I had never been to California, and had only gone as far west as Colorado. Because of the extreme difference in climate between Wisconsin and California, I will learn from a different perspective for the fields of permaculture and renewable energy.

I came to SLI to develop and further my interests in organic farming, permaculture, aquaponics, and solar power. I plan to use the knowledge and experiences from my internship to either pursue a career in one of these fields, and/or for my personal life. I am very passionate about living as sustainably as possible, and learning ways to create environmentally sustainable strategies to implement in every size of community. This is why I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn and live at the Solar Living Center this fall. When I return to my university in December, I will pursue a degree in either Biology or a field of Environmental Studies.



The Solar Living Institute is a 501 (c)(3) educational nonprofit organization offering instruction in solar training and sustainable practices.  Founded in 1998, we have been providing professional solar training and a wide array of sustainability courses for 20 years. Our courses are taught by experienced practitioners who bring years of real world knowledge to the classroom with a focus on helping students prepare for job opportunities, start businesses, and live more sustainably.

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