The Solar Living Institute was the educational arm of the Solar Living Center – a 12-acre solar-powered training, demonstration, and event center for sustainable living in Mendocino County, California. We provided powerful educational opportunities through our inspirational, experiential programs and our onsite network of demonstrations.

Our Mission

We believe humans are resilient. Our ability to be resilient to changes in our environment can best be nurtured by having deep connection to nature itself. SLI was created to support community leaders in developing the skills to build their capacity to be agents of change within their own communities. To realize our mission we hosted trainings and events, maintained cutting-edge demonstrations in sustainable living, and partnered with organizations and companies that shared our values to further the impact of our work.

A Letter From John Schaeffer, Founder and Board Chair

The Solar Living Institute has Closed

The Solar Living Institute (SLI) closed its doors on October 1, 2020. It was pretty much impossible to survive during the Covid Pandemic; we were unable to carry on our solar, natural building, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable living classes (beyond what we have available on-line). Our Solar Living Store was declared ‘non-essential’ and was therefore inoperable since early March 2020. But we’re not mourning the loss of our organization; instead we’re celebrating that we accomplished 100% of our mission over the past three decades since we separated our nonprofit SLI from our mothership, Real Goods.

In those three decades we trained thousands of folks in what was once a fledgling solar industry and helped bring it into the mainstream. We trained hundreds of folks in solar installation and sales, natural building, regenerative agriculture, primitive living skills, and all forms of efficient, sustainable and off-the-grid living. Over those same three decades we hosted, trained, and inspired hundreds of interns, many of whom had the peak experience of their lives while living and learning in community at our Solar Living Center. We remain in touch with many of these great interns and are very proud of their accomplishments in contributing to a saner, healthier, and more energy sensible world.

And let’s not forget the dozens of SolFests we hosted, the inspirational experiences they engendered, and the great networking (and even life-long marriages!) that SolFest brought about. It’s a bittersweet, but in the end, the memories are very sweet and fulfilling and the regrets pretty minimal.

So what became of our remaining assets? As many know, we sold the Solar Living Center to Flow Kana in 2019. Flow Kana has ambitious plans for the Solar Living Center. I remain as their adviser to help envision the SLC’s future. Plans include construction of the oft-mentioned Solar and Cannabis Museum, the establishment of a Café on site bringing farm-to-table organic and biodynamic cuisine to visitors, and a continuation of the promotion of solar, healthy living, regenerative agriculture, and Cannabis. Flow Kana is fully committed to continuing the mission of the Solar Living Center and SLI in education and inspiration and I’m optimistic they have the wherewithal to get there!

Our other assets, which include all of our inventory in the store, a good chunk of cash and management of this website, were given to two wonderful local organizations. First is “SPACE” (Near and Arnold’s School for Performing Arts and Cultural Education) which provides amazing inspirational education in performing arts for youth and young adults. We have worked very closely with SPACE over the last 30 years and have collaborated on many events. They have a strong socially conscious and environmental mission that is a joy to behold and are leaders of inclusion of all children through their well established scholarship program. Second is Hearthstone Village, an organization dedicated to helping educate orphans in Haiti, an island that has been devastated by natural disasters over the past decade. Hearthstone Village has successfully provided education for orphaned girls who would have otherwise ended up on the street or even worse. They have a strong commitment to the environment and to solarizing their orphanages. If you’d like to help either of these fine organizations, we encourage you to donate at their websites ( and Or, sign up for one of the many impactful on-line classes here on this website, some proceeds of which go to educate the orphans I mentioned.

It’s been a very long road for me since I started Real Goods in 1978 and the Solar Living Institute in 1995 and for my wife Nantzy who has worked side-by-side with me to create the magic over the years and for our great staff that helped bring inspiration to millions of visitors to the Solar Living Center. I’m looking forward to a little relaxation and a lot of playing in my retirement and I will be keeping my email: john(at)solarliving(dot)org if anyone would like to contact me directly. In the meantime, we will keep our website alive for educational purposes and Hearthstone Village will monitor it. Please don’t expect instant responses.

Also, remember that you can still take any of hundreds of online solar living classes anytime here at The proceeds will go to Hearthstone Village.

I want to thank each and every one of our Solar Living Institute supporters over the years for your kind and generous support, and I hope to stay in touch with many of you.

For the Earth one last time!


John Schaeffer

Founder and Board Chair