History of SLI

play-video-buttonEstablished in 1998 by the founder of the Real Goods Trading Company, John Schaeffer, the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission of "Promoting sustainable living through inspirational environmental education".



The Institute manages the Solar Living Center, a 12-acre renewable energy and sustainable living demonstration site that is visited by 200,000 people annually.

To learn more about visiting the Solar Living Center for a tour, click here.

The biodiesel fueling station was added in September 2003 to show the importance of alternative fuels as a means of decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. The fueling station is being donated to the Institute by Yokayo Biofuels in Ukiah, California. Stop by seven days a week to 'grease up' your diesel vehicle. Hours ar 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Sunday.

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.

The organic garden was started in May 2003 to create a model for public education by showing a synergistic and pragmatic integration of food, water, landscape, and shelter in ways that are energy efficient and enhance the surrounding environment to create a regenerative and sustainable system. 

The farm is irrigated by a solar pump that moves water from a pond to the farm on the facility. Produce is sold seasonally at a farm stand on site. Produce and sales from the produce help feed interns.

In 2011, we added a 26’ diameter geodesic dome, donated by Growing Spaces, to facilitate a micro-greens business supplying local organic grocery stores.


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 over 15 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.

ACCREDITED BY IREC - Registered Provider of NABCEP

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