Solar Energy International Case Study

November 17, 2021
5 Min

For nearly 30 years, Solar Energy International (SEI) has been dedicated to training the global solar energy workforce. Instrumental in SEI’s curriculum is a Blue Ion battery with a recently-upgraded monitoring system, donated by Blue Planet Energy, enabling new digital training possibilities for future solar workforces.

Solar Energy International (SEI) was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit educational organization. SEI’s mission is to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy that empowers people, communities, and businesses worldwide. Through a combination of hands-on training and online courses, SEI teaches everything from the basics of the industry’s leading renewable energy technologies to the proper design, installation, operation, and maintenance of solar-plus-storage systems. 

Blue Planet Energy’s Blue Ion battery is SEI’s only lithium-ion battery on campus, and its lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry gives students an introduction to the safest, most environmentally benign battery chemistry on the market.

“At Solar Energy International, our students learn how to safely install, test, and commission battery-based PV systems on our in-house Blue Planet Energy storage system. With the unit simultaneously providing our campus with robust backup power, it's a win-win as the team takes our industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy out into the world”
- Chris Turek, Director of Marketing and Communications, SEI

Blue Ion: Top of the Class

The troubling signs of climate change have created a growing reliance on solar to help reduce global carbon emissions. But to enable mass deployment of solar, SEI knew that more highly trained workers would be needed - and quickly. 

With over 80,000 alumni worldwide and roughly 500 students enrolled in its hands-on lab each summer, SEI offers energy professionals exposure to diverse technologies and skills they can then take into the field. For students looking to become dedicated energy storage specialists, this means understanding critical differences in battery chemistry, safety, longevity, and more.  

With SEI’s donated Blue Planet Energy battery, students learn how the use of LFP eliminates the thermal runaway and fire risks typically associated with other lithium-ion batteries, like lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC). This gives students the confidence to recommend and install safe, reliable battery storage to customers in the future. 

Blue Planet Energy battery storage systems can also be built for both on- or off-grid systems, require no maintenance, are highly scalable, and come backed by an unmatched 15-year warranty - making it flexible enough to power any home, business, or critical infrastructure project.  

In addition to donating its Blue Ion 2.0 battery, Blue Planet Energy most recently retrofitted the battery’s monitoring system to include the company’s new Namaka platform. Now, SEI can offer a training course on monitoring specific to battery storage. The retrofit also demonstrated to students that Blue Planet Energy offers upgraded monitoring capabilities for customers with Blue Ion 2.0 batteries.

“Supporting SEI through our donation program allows us to align with like-minded organizations in creating a cleaner future for all.”

- Chris Johnson Blue Planet Energy, CEO

Shared Commitments to Sustainability 

“Through Blue Planet Energy’s donation program, we are privileged to work with organizations who share our environmental values,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of Blue Planet Energy. “Collaborating with SEI is another avenue for our focus on workforce development and training the next generation on safe, reliable technology, which is essential in building a clean energy future of which we can all be proud.” 

True in its commitment to supporting a more sustainable planet, Blue Planet Energy’s use of LFP also contributes to the batteries’ smaller environmental footprint. 

Other lithium battery chemistries with nickel, cobalt, or manganese are estimated to use 50 percent more energy to produce than LFP batteries. They are also reported to have the highest environmental impact in regards to resource depletion, ecological toxicity, and human health. LFP batteries, however, use no rare earths or toxic metals and instead employ commonly available materials. These materials are more abundant, pose far less risk to the environment, and are less toxic to produce and recycle. 

“While SEI’s staff and board are often focused on how our training can directly impact the effects of climate change through workforce development, we are always on the lookout for tangible ways to employ the most environmentally-favorable technologies at our school. Blue Planet’s batteries ‘fit the bill’ in this regard - having safe, high-quality, and responsibly-sourced energy storage on our campus easily demonstrates that we care both about the planet and our student’s well-being,” added Turek.

Project name: Solar Energy International

Project location: Paonia, Colorado

Project type/application: Nonprofit Donation 

Battery system product and storage capacity:

Blue Ion 2.0, 16 kWh total capacity

Solar integration: 

SMA Sunny Island inverter, Sunny Boy grid-direct inverter,

ASCO Transfer switch, SMA Smartformer Auto-Transformer

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