Solar Project in the Himalaya

June 16th – June 29th 2018

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

One of Ladakh’s stunning lakes

SECMOL stands for Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, and was founded in 1988 by a group of young Ladakhis with the aim of reforming Ladakh’s failing educational system. Utilizing an incredibly successful self-directed learning model, students study topics ranging from English and science to traditional Ladakhi songs and dances.

The school is completely off-grid and embraces a 100% ecological model. SECMOL seamlessly weaves together organic farming and animal husbandry with sustainable technologies like solar cookers and solar heating. Their only electricity is solar generated, and they have outgrown their system. Lacking the resources and expertise to upgrade and fix issues with their current their system, they greatly look forward to our help.

SECMOL’s campus in Ladakh, India

While living at the SECMOL campus doing the installation you will have incredible opportunities to interact with the high school aged students, helping them refine their English while sharing our cultures. The school is incredibly diverse, bringing together Tibetan Buddhists, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Hindus.

Working hand in hand with local Tibetan Buddhist monks during our 2016 project

To learn more about SECMOL we invite you to view this 7 minute documentary.SECMOL – Short Documentary – Ladakh, India

SECMOL’s campus is located on the bank of the Indus River in the shadow of 20,000ft plus peaks. This northern edge of the Himalaya is the most arid region in all India, receiving less than 6” of rain a year, yet the melting glaciers feed pockets of incredible greenery and agriculture.

Thinksey Buddhist Buddhist Monastery near our project site

Ladakh’s truly otherworldly landscape is beautifully showcased in this 5 minute time lapse video. Ladakh – A Time Lapse Journey

Additionally, you will experience unforgettable sites like centuries old Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Muslim mosques, and Ladakh’s capital city, Leh. One of the lesser known jewels of India, this tranquil city is majority Buddhist, with a fascinating mix of Hindu and Muslim cultures all peacefully coexisting.

muslim spice trader in Leh

For the grand finale you will travel south to experience India’s most famous crown jewels. One of the world’s most scenic flights takes you over the Himalaya to New Delhi, where you will spend two days exploring world famous sites ranging from Old Delhi’s food and spice markets to the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal

Here’s a video from our 2016 trip’s food tour of Old Delhi.Delhi Street Food Tour

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, major religions of India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam), 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.

Rick had absolutely zero construction experience before the trip.

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


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 and back
  • Ground transportation
  • Entry fees
  • Travel insurance
$2,000 *
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
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.

Additionally, each participant is asked to either raise or donate $500 for the purchase of the solar equipment.

A partial view of our 2016 installation and group.

A crowd sourcing website such as GoFundMe will be setup for the project. It has worked amazingly well in past projects, with participants sharing the website link on social media as well as with friends and family. It is incredibly humbling to see how much generosity- often unexpected- is expressed for service projects like this.

Signing Up: 

Please contact Chris Strouthopoulos, Professor and trip coordinator for San Juan College.  You can reach him at or 505-566-3210.

All participants must be over 18 years old at time of travel and must be registered as a San Juan College student.  If you are not already an SJC student, it is easy (and FREE) to become one. Visit the Enrollment Services Home Page for more information.

You can chose to take the classes for credit or not, but regardless all participants must register as students for the course(s) attached to the program and pay tuition.

These traditional Ladakhi turquoise inlaid head dressings are passed from mother on daughter on her wedding day.



Please download and submit our application. Please contact trip leader Chris Strouthopoulos with any questions regarding the application at or 505-566-3210.

The application deadline is Friday March 2nd, 2018.

Program costs are split in two equal payments, due Friday March 9th, 2018 and Friday April 6th, 2018

Ladakh is famous for its spectacular light

Instructor Bios:

Chris Brooks

For the past 13 years, Chris Brooks has been working as a consultant,  project manager, designer, installer, and educator for solar energy projects in many parts of the world. His international work has focused on the use of solar energy as an enabling technology to help alleviate poverty and  improve healthcare and education in developing  communities. At home (in Washington State)  Chris designs and installs residential grid-tied and off-grid solar PV systems. Chris has served in the US Peace Corps, has a Masters of Science degree in Renewable Energy, and is a NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified PV installer. He is also a licensed electrician and a part time PV instructor for Solar Energy International (SEI) where he conducts solar-electric training programs in Spanish and English in the US and abroad.


Chris and former project leader Mike Sullivan celebrating the completion of their 2012 project.

Chris Strouthopoulos, Professor at SJC, 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 started in the English department but left to lead an initiative creating self-discovery/personal empowerment course for new students. During his twelve years at the college he earned numerous distinctions including 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 five continents. This will be the 8th international trip he has led for San Juan College.

Past Solar Projects:

This will be the fourth solar project Chris Strouthopoulos has successfully organized and led through San Juan College. He did the three previous projects with Mike Sullivan, who died mountaineering in Wyoming this past August. Chris Brooks, who taught with Mike for Solar Energy International, will be taking over Mike’s role. His loss was absolutely devastating to the people who knew Mike, loved Mike, and the countless impoverished people across the world Mike helped. Mike selected the SECMOL school for this project, and we will dedicate the installation to his memory.”

Here is a great newspaper article about some of our previous projects.

Please contact us if you would like to speak to past participants.

Our group from the 2014 project in eastern Tibet

Financial Aid:

If you already have scholarships or other forms of financial aid through SJC for the spring/summer 2018 semesters, your financial aid should apply as usual for your tuition and fees. You may need to meet with your Financial Aid adviser to adjust the schedule for your disbursement of funds.

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