Estimated number of off-grid houses that are unable to pay for their own Solar Systems

Years of Experience with Solar Power Workshops

Total number of installations done up until today

Solar Power Project - A Hands On Workshop

A Project by Green Life Volunteers in Collaboration with Green Go Solar

Are you passionate about renewable energy? Would you like to learn more about solar energy and get hands-on experience – and at the same time give power to off-grid remote schools and farmers in Costa Rica? Then you should participate in our Solar Power Workshop!

Quick Facts

Next Project Dates:

26th of January 2019 – 9th of February 2019

13th of July 2019 – 27th of July 2019

Note: We offer flexible dates for your group! If you have a group that would like to receive their own solar power workshop, we are flexible and can meet your groups needs! Contact us to find out more.

Costs: 2 weeks – $1800

Age requirement: 18+ years

Accommodation: A mix of shared dormitory type accommodation in hostels/ lodges, and separate host family accommodation (also shared with other volunteers – 2 people per room)

Food:
3 meals daily in your host family or in our hostels/ lodges

Location: Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica

Language requirement: English. No Spanish required.
Support: Coordination and instructors on site
Optional: A letter of recommendation and certificate at the end of your workshop

This project is run by:

In Collaboration With:

Details

Our Solar Power Project – A Hands On Workshop idea originated from Richie Aronson and Janina Schan, who dreamed up the workshop in 2014. A short time later, Keith Bonarrigo was brought onto the team, and 2 years later in 2016 our first workshop happened.

Our Workshop location, the Osa Peninsula and the town of Puerto Jimenez, is an absolutely beautiful place for a workshop. Ticos (native Costa Ricans) are very courteous, friendly, and environmentally conscious people. The surrounding area is filled with wildlife and the town sits on the border of the stunning Corcovado national forest – one of Costa Rica’s finest natural treasures.

Throughout the workshop you’ll receive basic and more advanced solar power theory, a Do-It-Yourself panel build workshop and a conventional solar system install to a local off-grid school in need of power.

You as a participant in our Solar Power Project will gain an understanding of the basic engineering principles of photo-voltaic power and solar panels. You will receive theory and practical lessons on how solar panels work. We will make panels from scratch and install basic systems. We will also install solar systems on one or two of the places we will donate the solar system to (varying locations throughout the Osa Peninsula).

The workshop aims at installing solar systems free of charge for chosen elementary schools or organizations in small remote communities with no access to grid-electricity. We also try to educate the local communities (and you as a participant) about Solar energy, and show them how to install, maintain, and build their own solar system!

An important aspect of the project is that we involve the local Ticos from the community in the workshop and provide knowledge and expertise to them on solar power systems. The locals are the ones managing and running the systems later on, so they’ll have to know how they work. You will help to educate the community about renewable energies and solar systems.

We are also including educational events for kids and adults throughout the workshop – usually we do a visit to our local high schools and show them how to make panels from scratch and teach them about solar energy.

Free time can be spent hiking, kayaking, surfing, fishing, diving, etc. Don’t miss out on an amazing adventure!!

How do I qualify?

An ideal volunteer on this project has a passion for environmental conservation, renewable energy, and helping communities. As a participant you should be flexible, pro-active, creative, and a team-player!

We accept participants of all ages and all educational statuses. We don’t require you to hold a degree or have a certain level of education.

The workshop is held in English for our foreign participants.. Spanish knowledge is always of advantage since you’ll be speaking with locals throughout the workshop and also communicate with your host family – who may not speak English!

If you would like to improve your Spanish before the project begins, you can sign up for group or private Spanish classes!

The Organizers and Instructors

Our Solar Power Project – A Hands On Workshop, is a collaboration project involving different organizations and people.

Below we explain more who each and everyone is, and what their specific role in the workshop currently is.

Jason Borner – COO and Co-Founder of PODERCO SOLAR Costa Rica

Jason is our theory instructor during the workshop, and he also will be our solar installer for the system installs on the school buildings. You’ll be working with him in the beginning and again towards the end of the course.

Jason Borner, originally born in Canada, founded Poderco SA in 1999 to service residential and commercial clients living off-grid in Costa Rica. Jason has successfully engineered and installed renewable energy systems including photovoltaic, hydroelectric, solar thermal, biomass and distributed micro grids in Costa Rica and Panama.

Jason has not only worked in the solar industry in Costa Rica for decades, he was also a pioneer in the field. Costa Rica had almost no solar power during the time Jason started Poderco. He was one of the first to bring solar power to the Osa Peninsula (where our workshop is mainly located). Jason also is one of the few installers in the country who is licensed to install on-grid solar systems. In 2010 Poderco began installing grid tied photovoltaic systems in Costa Rica, and the United States. Poderco is currently developing commercial and utility sized PV systems in Costa Rica

Jason currently lives in Puerto Jimenez, on the Osa Peninsula, with his wife and two young daughters.

Keith Bonarrigo – Green Go Solar

Keith Bonarrigo is the founder of the Green Go Solar Project and is a certified NABCEP PV associate (associate certification number #858109285).
Keith will be a part of our workshop for almost the entire duration of the course. He’s our instructor for the hands on workshop part, and he’s also educating locals about system maintenance. He serves as an excellent source of knowledge regarding everything solar throughout the course. His experience of a different geographic area, that comes with different challenges, helps to bring an even broader variety of solar knowledge to the workshop participants. Furthermore, he’ll also help us to educate school kids at the local high school about solar energy.

Keith grew up and attended high school in Ipswich, Massachusetts. From there he continued moving west to Colorado for snow and later to California chasing better waves and warmer water. Keith lived and worked several years in Peru, and later on in Brazil.

Keith became interested in renewable energy and ultimately studied under/befriended Mike Nelson – life-long renewable energy advocate, designer, and legislator as well as head of the award-winning Zero Energy Technology program in Shoreline, Washington. The two began experimenting with panel designs to address/change the notable lack of power to most residents of San Juanico – Baja Sur, Mexico. Keith had been drawn to its legendary surfing reputation and it had since become a regular destination for him. Their concept and designs evolved over time, prototypes were built and then placed into the community for testing.

Keith is fluent in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese and has limited communication ability in Thai and Bulgarian. He is 44 years old and splits his time in the Northwest between Portland, Or and Baja, Mexico. He enjoys many hobbies – among them are surfing, snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, martial arts, travel, and language.

Green Go Solar is a project that Keith created in Baja California, Mexico. The idea of the project is to use functional but cosmetically imperfect solar cells which are not used in retail-grade panels and build Do-It-Yourself solar panels out of them. He acquires and imports B/C grade solar cells into areas where there is either no power or extremely limited access to it. These cells are used as a vocational resource to illustrate basic electric principles critical to the design, construction, maintenance, and expansion of a larger solar system. Students test the integrity of these cells and connect them together into solar strings for a larger, pre-calculated electrical output.

Green Go Solar won the 2018 Energy Globe Award for Mexico and are in the running for the international Energy Globe Award!

Richie Aronson – Xero Solar

Richie is a solar energy professional from the US with an MBA in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University, which is consistently ranked as one of the top programs within the United States for social and environmental impact. Richie currently works for XERO Solar in Los Angeles, California. Richie enjoys playing collegiate basketball in Southern California and has a lifelong passion for athletics.

Richie oversees large scale solar installs in Los Angeles. Xero solar is involved in cutting edge technology (like the Tesla Powerwall). Richie also has a strong background and working knowledge in the financial aspects of solar.

Richie is the co-founder of the Solar Power Project – A Hands On Workshop, he will be on site throughout the workshop. He originally came across Green Life Volunteers and Costa Rica during a few months of traveling in the country in 2014. He actually was a volunteer at first on one of GLV’s projects. Richie and Janina got along well, and shared common interests in renewable energies and environmental protection.

Richie found the Green Go Solar Project (GGSP) in an internet search shortly after returning home from his Costa Rica trip. He was researching innovative renewable programs while studying in his MBA. He found Keith Bonarrigo and emailed him, and they met in Seattle. Later on Richie came to Baja California, trained as one of the first foreign volunteers in the Green Go Solar program, and recognized it would be a great fit with the Green Life Volunteers Program.

Richie and Janina strategized how to integrate the GGSP mission with Green Life Volunteers’ and the rest is history: A new project was born.

Janina Schan – Green Life Volunteers

Founder and Manager of Green Life Volunteers in Costa Rica, and co-founder of the Solar Power Project, Janina Schan was originally born in Germany, and decided to move to Costa Rica in 2011 to make a difference.  Her background is in Environmental Studies and Biology  – she has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, Toronto, and  a Bachelor of Science from Germany.

In her Master research she focused on tropical ecology and conservation and studied for 6 months in Costa Rica. The idea of the volunteer company came a little later, but she always had the desire to help out and make a difference.. especially regarding conservation and development projects. After her Master research ended, she started to work in Costa Rica in the tourism and volunteer industry, and then opened up her own volunteer company Green Life Volunteers in the beginning of 2012.

The idea was to create an organization that focuses on helping the community by sending volunteers to host families, and supporting volunteer projects that actually make a difference to the community, the animals and nature surrounding them. She created a dog and cat rescue project on the Osa Peninsula (the first of it’s kind in the area), and started helping many small grassroots NGOs, remote schools, and remote projects with sending them volunteers. She is involved in turtle conservation projects, a local butterfly farm, a local parrot rescue project, an environmental education program, just to name a few.

Janina lived on the Osa Peninsula for over 7 years, and has a good knowledge of the community and people. Her role in the Solar Project is to arrange all the logistics (transport, lodging, host families, course rooms, course materials etc.) and she is also the first point of contact for participants signing up for the course. She will help answer all questions during and after enrollment. She also organizes the involvement of local Costa Rican’s during the workshop and chooses the schools that receive our solar system donations.

 

Preliminary Schedule for Future Workshops

DATES Workshop 13th of July 2019 – 27th of July 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date Activities
Day 1 – JULY 13th

(SATURDAY)

Arrival day. Everyone has to book their flights to arrive in San Jose, SJO, Juan Santamaria Airport, on this day.Everyone will stay in a hostel or hotel of their choosing this night in ALAJUELA, the town close to the airport (only 5 minutes taxi ride). The hotel fee needs to be carried by you as the participants.
Day 2 – July 14th

(SUNDAY)

Travel day 1
This morning you’ll be picked up by our shuttle driver at your hostel around 7-8am. This transport is included in your workshop fee.On our first day we’ll travel to an off-grid location around 4 hours from San Jose. We will spend the night together as a group in a beautiful lodge.
Day 3 – July 15th

(MONDAY)

Travel Day 2

Today we’ll be continuing our journey to Puerto Jimenez. It will be another 4 hours from here to get to the Osa Peninsula.

Arrival and check in at your host family in the late afternoon. First night and dinner at your host families.

Day 4 – July 16th

(TUESDAY)

1st course day – Theory Session with Jason Borner/ Poderco Solar.

Today you’ll receive your first theory session in Puerto Jimenez. You’ll be learning solar basics, and move into more advanced theory in the afternoon.

Classes are held from 9am – 11:30am and again from 2pm – 4pm (with a 2.5 hour lunch break).

Day 5 – July 17th

(WEDNESDAY)

2nd course day – Theory Session with Jason Borner/ Poderco Solar.

Second day of theory.

Classes are held from 9am – 11:30am and again from 2pm – 4pm (with a 2.5 hour lunch break).

Day 6 – July 18th

(THURSDAY)

Free day for activities in Puerto Jimenez. After two days of theory you’ve deserved some time off to go surfing, kayaking, to go to the beach, or do whatever you prefer.
Day 7 – July 19th

(FRIDAY)

3rd course day – Practical Do it Yourself Workshop part with Keith Bonarrigo

Today you’ll learn how to build solar panels from scratch!

Classes are held from 9am – 11:30am and again from 2pm – 4pm (with a 2.5 hour lunch break).

 Day 8 – July 20th

(SATURDAY)

4th course day – Practical Do it Yourself Workshop part with Keith Bonarrigo

Classes are held from 9am – 11:30am and again from 2pm – 4pm (with a 2.5 hour lunch break).

 Day 9 – July 21st

(SUNDAY)

Free day for activities in Puerto Jimenez. After two days of theory you’ve deserved some time off to go surfing, kayaking, to go to the beach, or do whatever you prefer.
 Day 10 – July 22nd

(MONDAY)

 5th Course Day – Today we’re going to the local high schools to teach them what we’ve learned during our hands on and theory workshop. We’ll teach kids how to build a panel from scratch and have them learn about solar!
 Day 11 – July 23rd

(TUESDAY)

 6th Course Day – First day of installation of solar system and visit to a school

Today we are going to stay overnight in a different location together as a group.

 Day 12 – July 24th

(WEDNESDAY)

 7th course day – Second day of installation of solar system and visit to a school.

Tonight you’ll be back at your host families in Puerto Jimenez. *Subject to change to another excursion night.

 Day 13 – July 25th

(THURSDAY)

Free day for activities and packing in Puerto Jimenez. This will be your last day in town. Time to pack up and say goodbye to the team, host families, and instructors.
 Day 14 – July 26th

(FRIDAY)

 Leaving day from Puerto Jimenez. You’re on your own for transport to get back to San Jose, since some course participants choose to stay longer, or travel elsewhere, we don’t do this as a group. You can fly back to San Jose via Sansa, or take the bus back to San Jose. Usually a small group forms that takes the bus together, back to a hostel, to stay a night before flying out the next day. The participant carries the cost of the travel back to San Jose, and the last night at the hostel.
 Day 15 – July 27th

(SATURDAY)

Flight out of SJO, Juan Santamaria Airport – OR free to do your own activities/ continue your travels.

*Note that this schedule is subject to vary depending on our activities and course participants

** Also note that this schedule can be identical to any other date your group chooses. If you’re interested in organizing a group and coming down to learn about solar – we are happy to arrange this same course schedule any two weeks of the year! Just let us know at least 4 months ahead of schedule so we can organize your stay.

Accommodation and Food

Jessica and Surreida with kids Lee and Kai

 

While you’re on this project you’ll either stay with the entire group in a hostel/ lodge, or stay with local host families together with other Solar Project Participants.

Usually we have the participants split up in groups of 2 per room, and we have around 5 – 6 different host families around Puerto Jimenez. If you share a room with one of the participants, we will make sure to team up only participants of the same gender and roughly same age-range.You will also always have your own bed, and just share the room and the bathroom with your fellow participant. You will also have either a private bathroom for yourselves or share a bathroom with the family.

Remember you are staying with local Costa Rican families – the accommodations are basic. You will be provided with a fan, air-conditioning is not included usually at the Costa Rican housing.

Typical Costa Rican meals are cooked for you and prepared by your host family. Usually they consist of rice and beans, with vegetables, and meat or fish. Remember that the Costa Rican diet may differ from our western diets. Vegan and vegetarian diets are not very well known in Costa Rica, but families will prepare vegan and vegetarian meals for you in the way that they can. However, there are certain items that they may not be able to prepare or buy for you because special vegan items can be expensive (as they’re imported). In that case we ask participants to be flexible and purchase additional food items themselves, and ask the family to prepare those for meals (gluten free pasta, hummus or vegan cheese).

Usually breakfast will be served around 7:30am, lunch around 12:30pm, and dinner around 6pm every day. Sometimes this schedule may vary depending on course activities and excursions.

Typical Costa Rican Meal

Dormitory Type Housing in Eco-Lodge

Typical Host-family Room

Project Fees

The costs for this project are:

The two week course is 1800$. You are normally asked to pay 50% upon sign up, and the other 50% of the fee around 8 weeks before project begin. We can also accept installments of 25% upon sign up, and paying the other 75% later on.

We include in our project fees:

  • Private shuttle transportation from your hostels in Alajuela (this is the town close to the San Jose airport, only 10 minutes by taxi) on Sunday morning to the project location – Puerto Jimenez (where we arrive Monday afternoon)
  • 12 nights at either shared hotel/ lodging accommodations (including excursion days) or host families
  • 3 meals starting from Sunday lunch at shared lodging and your host families
  • The course materials and Instructor fees
  • Expeditions to lodges and off-grid solar locations during the workshop
  • Transportation to the installation sites throughout the workshop

Not included in our costs:

  • Transport / taxi ride from the SJO San Jose International airport to the hostel/ hotel of your choice in Alajuela (short taxi ride of 5-6$ each way)
  • The first night and last night at the hostel / hotel of your choice  – We will provide you hostel/ hotel options upon sigh up and you make your own reservations. The costs are roughly from 20$ per person in a dormitory type hostel.
  • Food expenses on your first day (Arrival Day), first night at the hostel, and first morning at the hostel in Alajuela/ San Jose (however, most hostels include free breakfast in their overnight costs), and on your last day (Friday from around lunch time).
  • Transportation costs from Puerto Jimenez BACK to San Jose/ the airport. The reason we don’t include this is, that some people may decide to fly out early, stay another few days in the country and travel more. Bus travel back from Puerto Jimenez to San Jose costs $16 one way, and a shared taxi to your hostel near the airport would be around $10 max. Flights from Puerto Jimenez to San Jose are available rom around $80.
  • Extra-curricular activities in your free time (Kayaking, surfing, horseback riding, hiking, any other free time activities)
  • National and International flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Any additional food or snacks besides the host family meals
  • Other personal expenses


How are the fees utilized?

Typically around one-third of your fee will go into the materials of our do-it-yourself workshop, and a small part to the solar system costs which goes as a donating to the schools. Another one-third of the fee will go into your host family and Eco-Lodge accommodation and food. A final one-third of the costs is split between your transportation costs from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, and the compensation for our instructors and organizers of the workshop (Green Life Volunteers, Green Go Solar, Jason of Poderco Solar, etc).
We are not getting rich of your program fee – every last cent is spend well and fairly, and assures that you’ll have a great workshop experience!

More Info Solar Handbook

 

This is the GLV Handbook for the Solar Power Project – A Hands On Workshop. This will give you DETAILED info on everything you would need and want to know regarding the project. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Click here to download our handbook for 2018.

Fun Activities for your Free Time

Throughout the workshop there will be days free to enjoy the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica. There are plenty of activities to do around the Puerto Jimenez area, and the Osa Peninsula. It is important to plan ahead for some activities. Hence we have a list of activities here so that you know what to prepare for:

  • Kayaking: Kayaks are for rent in Puerto Jimenez town from $20. It’s possible to go out afternoons after the course is over (around 4pm) for a sunset kayak cruise. You can hire a guide as well to take you through the Mangroves (highly recommended).
  • Bike riding to Playa Preciosa: Bikes are available for rent in Puerto Jimenez town from around $10. You can take a bike and cruise around 45 minutes to a beautiful picture perfect beach with a several kilometer long beach. Perfect for an afternoon or day excursion on your own.
  • Horseback Riding: Horses are for rent in Puerto Jimenez town for around $40 per horse. The guide charges another $40 to join you and show you around.
  • Dolphin and Whale watching tour: Typically we organize a group dolphin and whale watching tour for the entire group (or whoever wants to join). Costs are approximately $50 per person. The tour starts around 7:30am and goes until around 1:30pm. This tour is perfect for a whole day off (Saturday or Sunday).
  • Tour to a Chocolate Making Farm: There is a chocolate farm close to Puerto Jimenez. A tour typically costs around $70 per person, includes transport and chocolate tasting! You will learn everything there is to know about chocolate making!
  • Butterfly farm: The butterfly farm offers night walks to see frogs, crocodiles, snakes and other night active animals. They also offer day tours around the butterfly farm and teach you about the conservation work they do.
  • Hike to a Waterfall: To go for a waterfall hike cost around $20 per person for transport and a guide. They’ll take you for a beautiful walk where you see lots of monkeys and animals, and arrive at a beautiful waterfall where you can go for a swim. This tour is around half a day starting from around 7:30am – 2pm.
  • Surfing in Matapalo: Matapalo is one of the best surf spots around the country. Surf boards are for rent from $20 for experienced surfers, and lessons for beginners starts at around $55 per person. You’ll get a lesson from an experienced surf instructor in small groups (around 3 people per group) and you’re almost guaranteed to stand up 🙂 !
  • Surfing in Pavones: Pavones is one of the longest left-breaking waves in the world, and is just across the Golfo Dulce. If participants are interested, we can organize a trip to Pavones by boat to go surfing. The cost will depend on how many participants are into going, but may be around $50 per person.
  • Hike to Corcovado National Park: Hikes to Corcovado National Park have to be planned a little further in advance, since park permits are limited. You need a guide to join you for this hike. Costs start from around $140 for a day tour including transport. There is also an option to stay overnight in the park, which would be a bit more expensive (around $250) but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You would sleep in world famous La Sirena Ranger Station in the middle of the jungle.

Our Project Location: The Osa Peninsula and the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica

We spend the most time working in Puerto Jimenez, a small dreamy village on the Osa Peninsula. Throughout the workshop we'll explore different locations on the Osa and South Pacific!

 

Learn more about Puerto Jimenez Learn more about Costa Rica

Solar Workshop Costa Rica Videos

Workshop 2018

Workshop 2018

Workshop 2016

Solar Workshop Volunteer Reviews

Solar Power Project Review – Fraser Lloyd

Fraser Lloyd participated in our 2018 Solar Power Project - A Hands On Workshop. He's giving his unbiased review on camera. The project participants where asked to give private reviews on camera, as well as some where interviewed by our project organizers....

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Jake’s Review – Solar Power Project

Jake, 30 years old, participated in the Solar Power Project in 2016. He wrote his review on Abroad Reviews and GO Abroad. Here is his review: "An absolutely fantastic experience. Amazingly informative on the practical aspects of solar, while at the same time extremely...

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Katelyn’s Review – Solar Power Project

I participated in the 2-week solar power workshop in June 2016. I came to the workshop with a general interest in clean energy and a desire for an immersive travel experience. In addition to learning all things solar (theory, system design and maintenance,...

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Joey’s Review – Solar Power Project

Once upon a time I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and install solar energy abroad and learn more about off-grid PV systems. I stumbled across the Green Life Volunteers organization through google searching these kind of opportunities in Latin American...

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