Solar Project in the Himalaya

June 2-19, 2016

Information Session - Tuesday, February 9 at 6:00 pm in room 1927




Click to see more pictures


We are looking for 8-12 participants to join us for a Photovoltaic (PV) installation at a remote Buddhist monastery in the spectacular Ladakh region of northern India.

The PV system we’re installing will greatly improve the lives of the monks living at this centuries old monastery. Most of all they’re looking forward to something most of us take for granted- lighting during the long nights of winter.

In addition to living and working alongside the monks at the monastery, we’ll travel the Indus River valley and have opportunities to hike with majestic views of glacier clad peaks towering over 20,000’. We’ll also visit nearby villages that the monastery serves, where people maintain their ancient traditions of barley farming and the nomadic grazing of goats and sheep.

Our trip begins in New Delhi, where we’ll take time to explore the Taj Mahal and other wonders of India. From there we’ll fly to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. One of the lesser known jewels of India, Leh is a green oasis starkly contrasting the surrounding high desert environment. This tranquil city is majority Buddhist, with a fascinating mix of Hindu and Muslim cultures all peacefully coexisting.

Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to join us, and no experience is necessary. Our project is organized as a class through the college, and the instructors will cover all you need to know: solar design and theory, PV installation basics, Buddhism, and the history & culture of the Ladakhi people. Empowered with this knowledge you’ll be able to directly participate in the solar installation and get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience.

This is not a commercial tourism experience. We are partnered with an Leh based NGO called the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG), who has been building relationships in this region for years. Because of these relationships and our local guides you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the monks and villagers.

Come join us for this memorable and rewarding mixture of service work, PV training, and cultural education!  


June 2-19, 2016


HUMA299 – Cultural Explorations of Ladakh (2 credits)
ENGR299 – Ladakhi Village Solar Installation Project (2 credits)

To see how the courses will count toward a degree at SJC, check out the Academic Advising Sheet.


Program fee (paid to San Juan College) covers:

  • Housing (hotels in cities, monastery while at project site)
  • Local guides
  • Food
  • Airfare from New Delhi to Leh
  • Ground transportation
  • Entry fees
  • Travel insurance

Participants will be required to pay for the following additional travel costs that are NOT included in the program fee:

  • Airfare to New Delhi from their home city and back


Each participant is asked to either raise or donate $500 for the purchase of the solar equipment. $500
Other expenses:
  • Tuition and related fees for the 2-credit Solar Engineering course and 2-credit Humanities course (both are required for all participants)
  • Passport application fee (for those participants who need to apply for a U.S. passport) - For information on getting a passport, please visit  
  • Immunizations/Medications (if applicable)
  • Souvenirs, phone calls, and other incidental expenses abroad

 *This is an estimate based on 8 participants and may vary based upon the final number of participants.  


All participants must be over 18 years old at time of travel and must be San Juan College students in order to apply for the travel study program. All participants must register as students for the courses attached to the program and pay tuition, whether taking the courses for credit or auditing. If you are not already an SJC student, it's easy (and FREE) to become one. Visit the Enrollment Services Home Page for more information.

If you are graduating from high school in May 2016, you should contact Abby Calcote in Enrollment Services to apply to San Juan College as an Early Admit student.  


Participants will be traveling and working in a remote 13,500’ environment. Acclimatization days will be provided in Leh, elevation 11,500ft before proceeding higher. If you have concerns about altitude we’d suggest speaking with your doctor.

Participants will be walking on dirt paths and uneven surfaces. Opportunities to take hikes will be provided, and these may include steep and rocky trails with minimal to no maintenance.

Accommodation at the project site will be extremely basic as no hotels exist in the area, so participants should expect to sleep on a camping mattress in a sleeping bag.

Participants are responsible for lifting and carrying their luggage throughout the trip.

If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.


For program information, contact Chris Strouthopoulos, Associate Professor and lead trip coordinator for this travel study program ( or 505-566-3210).

Application materials will be available online at under the "Student Resources" tab.

The application deadline is Friday, February 26, 2016.  


50% of the program fee is due by Wednesday, March 9, 2016. 

The remaining 50% of the program fee is due by Friday, April 8, 2016. 


If you already have scholarships or other forms of financial aid through SJC for the spring/summer 2016 semesters, your financial aid should apply as usual for your tuition and fees. You may need to meet with your Financial Aid advisor to adjust the schedule for your disbursement of funds.

If you are a degree-seeking, financial aid eligible student at SJC during summer 2016, you may be eligible to apply for scholarship funds through the San Juan College Foundation. Contact the Office of Global Studies for more information.


Mike Sullivan will be teaching the two credit engineering component of the class. After graduating with honors from Rutgers University he began his engineering career working for Los Alamos National Laboratories, but now much prefers his current occupation teaching classes for Solar Energy International. Mike has extensive experience leading projects in the greater Himalayan region, including three solar projects, a hydro-electric project, and a solar training with LEDeG. In addition to LEDeG, Mike has done numerous solar projects in Tibet with NGOs, private donors, and the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratories. Additionally, Mike is a consultant with the non-profit Solar Electric Light Fund, and has personally designed and installed solar energy projects for hospitals in Haiti.

Chris Strouthopoulos will be teaching the two credit humanities component of the course. Chris has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and his published work spans academic journals to Skiing and Climbing magazines. He is an Associate Professor at San Juan College, where he earned the prestigious Annabelle R. Friddle Faculty Excellence Award. He has lived abroad on two occasions (Japan and Greece), and his personal travels have taken him to over two dozen countries ranging from Nepal to Peru. This will be the 7th international trip he has led for San Juan College and his 3rd solar project in the greater Himalaya region.


Day 1-2:  Flight from USA to Delhi. (Approximate travel time is 20 hours plus 12 hour time change)  Check into hotel in Delhi upon arrival.

Day 3:  Early morning tour of Taj Mahal in Agra, plus sightseeing in Old Delhi in afternoon.

Day 4:  Early morning flight to Leh, time for rest and acclimatization.

Day 5:  Acclimatization day in Leh, tour of Old Palace and Sankar Monastery.

Day 6:  Acclimatization day, tour of Thiksey Monastery and Shay Palace ruins.

Day 7: Travel day to project site.

Days 8-15:  8-day stay at project site: acclimatization, solar project size-up and task planning, project installation and commissioning, solar training, cultural exchange and learning opportunities, hiking as time permits.  Homestay accommodations or lodging in local monastery.

Day 16: Return trip from project site to Leh.

Day 17: If we have returned on schedule, we can explore Hemis Monastery with opportunities to hike. Team celebration dinner.

Day 18:  Early morning flight from Leh to Delhi with time for sightseeing and shopping in Delhi.  Depart from airport in evening.

Day 19:  Arrive in USA.

*Itinerary may be altered if necessary due to weather, travel delays, or other unforeseen circumstances.


Past Solar Projects:  
This will be the third solar project Chris and Mike have successfully organized and led through San Juan College. Click here to learn about our 2012 medical clinic project and click here to learn about our 2014 Buddhist monastery project. Please contact us if you’d like to speak to past participants.

This 3 minute video highlights the 2014 and 2012 projects, and is set to original recordings of our guides singing traditional Tibetan folk songs.

Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG):  
LEDeG’s describes its primary mission as promoting, “ecological and sustainable development that harmonizes with and builds on the local traiditions & Culture of Ladakh.” Based out of Leh, LEDeG has a proven track record that goes back over three decades, earning them numerous international awards and recognitions. Their partnerships range from San Juan College, to the Indian government, to the Dalai Lama Trust.

Learn more about the LEDeG.

How we travel:  
True to LEDeG’s mission, we travel responsibly to minimize the exploitation of Ladakh’s fragile natural and cultural landscape. We use local guides and eat in local restaurants. Because we’ll be traveling far off the beaten tourist path, we’ll be staying in Buddhist monasteries and village homes to facilitate cultural exchange and support community businesses. Furthermore, we encourage our guests to purchase necessities and goods from village markets and shops, and ask everyone to use recyclable materials, pack up their own trash, and educate others on responsible travel.

Why do volunteers have to pay?
Organizing effective, cost-efficient, and socially responsible international volunteer service presents a challenge in any part of the world – particularly in India. Volunteer funds help maintain the LEDeG’s nonprofit organization, and are used in all of the structures, logistics, and support necessary to ensure project safety and success. We use funds to hire local coordinators and interpreters, rent vehicles, meet with community members, secure travel permits and liability insurance, and provide staff to support the project goals.

For additional information, please contact:
Chris Strouthopoulos - (505) 566-3210 or