GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access, providing needed savings for families, preparing workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry, and helping clean our environment.
We are thrilled to announce that non-profit Power to the People is joining our family as GRID Alternatives' new International Program, pending regulatory approval.
International work has always been part of our long-term vision of bringing solar to underserved communities. In November of last year, GRID Co-Founder Tim Sears had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with Power to the People and 13 GRID volunteers to install off-grid solar electric systems on a rural clinic and school, literally lighting up the community for the first time. It was such a powerful experience, and so well-aligned with our mission and values that we decided to make the program a permanent part of our organization.
A hearty welcome to Power to the People founder Jenean Smith, our new Director of International Programs, and our team in Nicaragua!
GRID’s International Program will continue to build and expand upon the “voluntourism” model used successfully by Power to the People since 2008, providing opportunities for volunteers to travel to Nicaragua and install solar alongside community members, while raising funds to support the projects.
Travel with us and help bring power to schools, community centers and health clinics across Nicaragua so that children can study in the evenings; families can charge their cell phones and household batteries; and everyone can have access to life-saving medical equipment and perishable vaccines.
We are currently signing up volunteers for trips on August 9-17 and October 25-November 2, and will have more opportunities in 2015. We are also offering corporate and student group trips... click here for photos from our recent trip with SunRun! Thank you to everyone who has made this dream a reality. Our international work is powered by supporters like you.
Twice this year already, GRID Alternatives Central Valley has been able to parlay a generous gift from the Honnold Foundation with rebates from Turlock Irrigation District in order to make solar a reality for families Delhi & Turlock, two cities that until now have not benefitted from our solar program. In total, the Honnold Foundation will support four families going solar in the Turlock/Ceres/Modesto area in partnership with GRID Alternatives, TID, and Ceres High School.
The practical implication of this support is staggering: GRID is able to help families save $168,000 on monthly electrical utility bills over the lifetime of the solar PV system, provide “Classroom on the Roof” experience to students of Ceres High School’s Green Technology and Manufacturing Academy, and reduce 528 tons of greenhouse gases in the air we breathe. GRID Alternatives would like to extend a warm thanks to the Alex Honnold Foundation that provided the impetus in making these installations a reality.
Looking to the immediate future, GRID will complete these installations in March/April 2014. From the staff and leadership at GRID Alternatives Central Valley office, special thanks to the Honnold Foundation and the partners that are making solar happen for families in Delhi and Turlock!
Espanola Jackson is a San Francisco Bay Point resident of 46 years, community activist, grandmother to over 70 grandchildren and the proud owner of a solar powered home thanks to GRID. However, Espanola’s pathway to solar isn’t typical and neither is her dedication to spreading solar to over 100 fellow San Francisco homeowners.
In 2009 a house fire, caused by an old heating system, left the top floor of Espanola’s home charred. Espanola was shocked by this unfortunate event but also felt that it would bring positivity to her life in some form. During the weeks following the house fire she attended a Public Utilities Commission meeting where she heard about the opportunity to own her own solar system for little to no cost. The next day she submitted her application, recieved approval, and was next in line to get solar through GRID. When GRID contacted her to set up the date of her install she kindly informed the scheduler that she was very excited to get solar but that her neighbor was desperate for savings and should get their system installed first. GRID responded by immediately reaching out to Espanola's referal and in no time had set the date for both neighborhood installs. The systems were installed the following week which left Espanola with a 2.0 Kw system on her roof and reduced her monthly electric bill to around 4 dollars a month.
After feeling blessed with the opportunity to become a solar homeowner, Espanola felt she should help more people in her community get involved with GRID, and that's exactly what she did. From 2010 to 2012, she told hundreds of community members about the program, with spectacular response; over 90% of all San Francisco clients that heard about GRID through word of mouth came through Espanola in that time period. When asked if she could give solar to one more homeowner in San Francisco who would it be, she answers, “I would give it to everyone, because it’s not about one person, it’s about the people."
Giving the gift of solar is an amazing feeling that can be shown by the smile of a homeowner who turns on their system for the first time. At GRID we have the unique opportunity to solarize thousands of roofs, but this can only happen with your help! Almost everyone knows a homeowner who qualifies for solar through GRID, and that’s why we’re asking all our supporters to refer at least one person in their network. So please click here to view the client qualifications and then reach out to people in your network who you think qualify. We can all be a solar catalyst like Espanola, and not only reduce electricity cost for family, friends, and neighbors, but also inspire others to brighten the world for future generations.
Please check out these GRID qualification guidelines and forward them to anyone you think may qualify for our program to help spread solar in your neighborhood!
Through a service project hosted by nonprofit The Mission Continues, three branches of the U.S. Military joined forces to install a 3.4 kilowatt AC solar electric system for the King family in South Los Angeles on Friday February 21st. Our two-day veterans' install started sharply at 8:30 AM, there was no fanfare or grandeur in the air, yet there was a quiet sense of camaraderie and honor that comes with serving your country and your community; and rightly so, as our crew was staffed entirely by veterans from the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps.
This project came to be through the efforts of Geoff Harjo, a U.S. Army Veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who is currently completing a 6-month fellowship with GRID Alternatives through The Mission Continues. The Mission Continues empowers military veterans to serve our country in new ways by putting to use new skills learned in service and giving them the tools needed to succeed as they transition back into civilian life.
With hard-hats on and harnesses secured, all 12 veteran volunteers were ready for the safety talk led by Norman Graham, GLA's own veteran. Graham, who served for 23 years in Japan as a U.S. Navy Quartermaster, has been a Solar Installation Supervisor for GLA for over two years. He wrapped up the safety talk, and quickly divided everyone into roof crew and ground crews. Under Graham’s no nonsense leadership style, there was no standing around and no blank faces. It was evident our veterans were ready to get work done.
Our veterans’ crew came from many ranks; Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, and Corporals were all together to serve their community once again. There were older veterans and younger ones, some retired, some still serving. Our ground team was lead by one of GRID’s go-to Team Leaders, Bernie Stafford; a U.S. Marine Corps who served in the Vietnam War. Lieutenant Stafford started his own business after transitioning back into civilian life. He is now an experienced electrician, and enjoys volunteering his time to teach others about the electricity needs surrounding a solar installation.
Also on the crew was Jorge Pongo, a staff sergeant who served for 14 years in Kuwait, Iraq and Djibouti and who continues to serve through The Mission Continues. Pongo now works in business management, and sees the economic upside of installing solar panels on low-income homes, “It makes sense to provide solar to people in need as it frees up income to be used in other ways.”
While all of our veterans have a different story to tell, they all have a similar work ethic cultivated through their commitment in service to our country. Graham, our Installation supervisor commented, “This is the biggest group of veterans we’ve ever had on an install. The get-the-job-done mentality we all share made this an efficient day. Working with these guys is not only a pleasure, but an honor.”
Thank you once again for your service, gentlemen. The honor is ours.
On January 7th, 2014, students from University of Nebraska-Lincoln escaped the sub-zero temperatures of the recent Polar Vortex to enjoy two days of mild Goshen, California temperatures installing solar with GRID. The 26 students were part of the UNL Alternative Service Break Program, which aims to expose students to issues within different communities and immersing them in hands on experience to facilitate solutions. The group marveled at the diversity they saw in California, but were a diverse group themselves; from undergraduates to recent grads, from international students to a Central Valley native that came home to serve.
Psychology major, David Orozco-Garcia, grew up in Lindsay approximately 30 miles from Goshen stated, “Volunteering gives me the opportunity to travel, help others, and allows me to learn something new about myself.” He went on to say, “I wanted to meet the people I was helping, and GRID gave me that opportunity.”
Yayin Yang, an Actuarial Science major from China, was excited about the hands-on nature of the work. “GRID Alternatives taught us how to use tools,” Yayin said, “and then we used them by ourselves! I like what GRID Alternatives offers and I would like to continue volunteering with them.”
“Our commitment to provide families in need with access to solar technology has never been stronger, and what better way to broaden that commitment than to teach young leaders across the nation the value of our work,” said Tom Esqueda, Central Valley Regional Director. “We feel fortunate that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chose the Central Valley for their service trip and feel even more fortunate that they chose GRID Alternatives as a partner.”
Our work provides triple bottom line benefits to communities we serve: economic relief for low-income families, environmental benefits for our planet, and skills for our volunteers to gain employment in the solar industry. Maybe it’s time to add a fourth in the Central Valley: providing a Polar Vortex-free working environment!
"All we knew is that solar panels help you save energy."
This was Rafael Macias' answer when asked how much he knew about solar before working with GRID Alternatives to install a 2.9 kilowatt system on his home in San Jose, California.
Rafael and his wife, Lina, are both cancer survivors and the proud parents of 6 children, ranging in age from 3 to 23 years old. With their health challenges and the expenses of a large family - not to mention that their roof needed to be replaced - neither of them ever thought solar could help them find economic security.
"I came down with this illness that kept me off work for 8 months and we went downhill - we ran out of savings, ran out of money, ran out of everything. Rough times," Rafael explains.
But the Macias family was too excited to both save money and help the environment to let their aging roof get in the way of a great opportunity with GRID. A week after receiving referrals from GRID staff and rallying support from their extended family to raise the funds for the roof replacement, Rafael and Lina had a new roof and were ready for solar!
"We're both cancer survivors, so finally something good is happening for us," Rafael adds. They plan to use the savings from their solar system - estimated at approximately $29,000 over the next 30 years - for food and college expenses for their children.
GRID would like to congratulate the Macias family on the hard work and dedication they put into becoming solar energy leaders in their neighborhood! Click here to see pictures from their install.
In 2014, GRID Alternatives will be celebrating our 10th anniversary. With each passing year our work has grown exponentially, both in terms of numbers of families served and breadth of activities, from day-to-day installations to new job training partnerships to policy-level work. But a single vein continues to run through it all: making renewable energy more accessible. Despite huge advances, clean, affordable power is still available only to a tiny sliver of the world’s population. But here at GRID we know that it doesn’t have to be that way, and we—all of us—are proving that every day.
When a family in South LA goes solar, they are inspiring others in their community to do the same. When a group of youth from New York City public housing gets on a roof to install solar for the first time, they are discovering a new technology and a new career path. When California passes legislation reaffirming its commitment to solar for low-income communities, it is setting the stage for equitable solar policies in other states and in the nation at large.
Every year, as we intensify and expand our work in all of these areas—doing what we do on the ground and at the same time helping our leaders make solar policy that benefits all our communities—we are ever grateful for the support of people like you who care enough to roll up your sleeves and make a difference: it's your time and your gifts that power GRID's good work. We need you! Give today, and we'll put your dollars to work tomorrow, making solar energy affordable for everyone who needs it.
Erica Mackie & Tim Sears
Los Calpules is a rural community in Ciudad Dario, Matagalpa, Nicaragua with no access to grid electricity. Residents are subsistence farmers who survive on an average of only $3 per day. Until now, the local clinic, which serves 1500 people from several surrounding towns, had no power for medical equipment or refrigerators to preserve life-saving vaccines.
When our group of volunteers first arrived at the community, everyone was hanging around the school. They were clearly interested in the big truckload of "cheles," as they call foreigners here, but they were pretty shy. We walked around and introduced ourselves, but most of the volunteers didn't speak very good Spanish, so there were a lot of awkward smiles and silences. Then the Power to the People staff started an icebreaker activity that involved people acting like elephants, rabbits and bowls of Jello. It turns out that rural Nicaraguans and city slickers from the United States both look equally ridiculous trying to look like Jello!
We spent three days there, living with the families in their simple, dirt-floor homes, showering with a bucket of cold water out back and eating delicious food that was mostly produced right there in their yards and farms. In that time, we worked together with local volunteers and technicians to install four solar electric systems. The systems will generate enough electricity to power the school; a battery-charging station for community members who use batteries to power their homes, saving them expensive trips into town; a refrigerator for vaccines; and lights for the clinic.
It was already getting dark on the last day as we were finishing up the systems, and the crowd around the school was growing as everyone waited for the celebration that was to follow. We made the last connections by the small round lights of our headlamps. Then, finally, we went live.
The transformation was amazing. One minute, it was pitch black for as far as you could see, and then all of a sudden light was pouring out of the school. The whole community let out a huge cheer and there were smiles on every face. A local musician had brought a speaker system, which he normally used for shows in the nearest town, and we all danced late into the Nicaraguan night (that’s about 8pm in this village accustomed to going to sleep with the sun).
After the celebration party finished, I started walking across the field to the house I was staying in. When I turned and looked back, the school was this blaze of light in the middle of the darkness. Some of the community members were still hanging around outside the school, and everyone was still smiling.
Thanks to all of the GRID Alternatives volunteers who participated; to Power to the People for leading an incredible project; and to SunPower Corp., Toshiba, Trojan Battery, Jinko Solar and Goal Zero for their generous equipment donations. Here’s to more opportunities to bring in the light in 2014!
After a successful pilot program in our Inland Empire office last year, GRID Alternatives is officially launching its first organization-wide Solar Spring Break, a national Alternative Spring Break program, in partnership with World Wildlife Fund. Starting in spring 2014, teams of students from across the country will have the opportunity to get on the roof with GRID, learning to install solar while making a difference for people and the planet.
“We wanted to give college students who are passionate about renewable energy the chance to turn that passion into action doing projects that have a tangible impact on families’ lives,” said Erica Mackie, CEO and Co-founder of GRID Alternatives.
Each project will host 10-12 college students travelling to one of GRID Alternatives' offices in California and Colorado. Student groups will be led by GRID's certified solar professionals in installing solar electric systems for local low-income families, from start to finish. In addition to the time spent installing solar, they will also have access to educational programming such as speakers and tours of renewable energy facilities, as well as free time to explore the beaches, cities, hiking, mountain biking and other attractions GRID Alternatives’ office locations have to offer.
Participating students will provide a $5,000 donation per team of 10-12 students for their Solar Spring Break. This donation is combined with state and local funding, grants and other philanthropy to cover the costs of the solar electric systems for the families.
“Solar technology is becoming more accessible to families across the U.S.” states Keya Chatterjee, Director of WWF’s Renewable Energy Campaign. “Solar Spring Break is a great opportunity for students to engage and learn more about this rapidly expanding energy source and its critical role in providing all income levels a clean and abundant energy source.”