As a single mom of three and a proud grandmother, Kareen Hunter believes strongly in family and in preserving the world for our children. That's why she went solar with GRID Alternatives.Read the story
GRID Alternatives has partnered with 93 low-income families in the Bayview-Hunter's Point Neighborhood to install PV systems that combat asthma, chronic illness, and high mortality rates caused by air pollution.Read the story
GRID Alternatives provides hands-on solar installation experience for those looking for work in the solar industry. For job trainees, team leaders and even interns like Courtney Dittmar, GRID serves as a link to long-term employment.Read the story
GRID Alternatives Bay Area office leads teams of volunteers and job trainees to install solar electric systems for low-income families from Santa Clara to Mendocino County, providing families with needed savings and giving Bay Area workers hands-on experience to help them find jobs in the green-tech economy.
Bay Area NewsSee all news
- Check out these energy efficiency tips that can help everyone save money and the planet! Read more
- The Bay's Young Professionals in Energy show that you can learn a lot while giving back. Read more
- Get your new, super stylish GRID hats and sunglasses today! Read more
- Luke went from having relatively no solar experience to being a paid solar installer in three months.… Read more
- How GRID - and 150+ of our friends - installed solar for 8 families in 1 day Read more
- The Bay Area Solarthon is coming to Richmond, where the benefits will be especially meaningful. Read more
- The Mtchona family has come all the way from Malawi, and is one of the newest members of the GRID community.… Read more
- In partnership with PG&E, GRID organized their first ever solar jobs fair during Intersolar North America.… Read more
- Just in time for Father's Day, Jose Jr. helps install a solar electric system on his parents' home. Read more
Less is More with Energy Efficiency: Tips for Saving Money and the Planet
Sunshine is in no short supply around here, but solar panels are a finite resource – not to mention that large solar arrays can present a fair amount of financial and logistical hurdles. While GRID promotes increased use of solar energy, we aim to do it the responsible way by helping families reduce their electricity usage before we install solar for them. That’s why every homeowner that receives the gift of solar through GRID goes through energy efficiency training to help keep their utility costs at a minimum.
With colder months on the horizon, there’s never a better time for all of us to make simple changes to our homes and habits that can result in lower utility costs and a smaller carbon footprint. As individuals it may not seem like we can put a dent in the current energy crisis, but if every person takes up one energy saving behavior we can make an enormous impact. For example, if all California residents unplugged appliances when they weren’t using them, it would save upwards of $640 million each year. That translates into an estimated 2.9 million Megawatts!
So check out this list of small things you can do to save money and the planet at the same time - and don’t forget to tell your friends!
- Use lids on pots and pans to reduce cooking time.
- Don’t boil more water than you need when making coffee, tea, or other hot drinks.
- Unplug electrical devices when not in use, especially laptops. A power strip can make this easy. And when taking a vacation, don’t forget to give your appliances a rest too by unplugging them.
- For smaller meals, cook with small appliances like toaster ovens and microwaves, or even use the small burner on the stove.
- Use cold water when running the garbage disposal.
- Let food cool down before putting it in the refrigerator.
- Use a humidifier during cooler months. It makes you feel warmer and allows you to turn down the thermostat a couple degrees
- Heat your home with the sun. Open the blinds and let light in during cooler months to naturally heat your house
- Clean the coils of your refrigerator, but don’t forget to unplug it before you take on this task.
- Dress for the occasion. Often times putting on a sweater in the winter can really make a difference.
- Open the refrigerator door for shorter durations. Instead of keeping the door open while pondering your dinner choice, take a quick scan of what’s inside, close the door, and then start planning.
- If you have hardwood or tile floor, add rugs to keep your feet warm.
- Check the exterior of your home for air leaks. These could be around spigots, dryer vents, gas pipes, etc. You can use caulk or expanding foam to seal them up.
- Install a programmable thermostat which allows you to keep temperatures low when you’re away for the day.
- Insulate your water pipes with half inch foam or pipe tape wherever they are exposed.
- Move furniture away from exterior walls and drafts during cooler months to make sitting areas warmer.
- Replace or clean furnace filters.
- Turn your water heater down to 120 - 125 degrees.
- Use weather stripping to seal drafts under doors.
Young Professionals in Energy: Out of the office and on to the roof!
While most of the Bay Area flocked to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, 20 members of the Young Professionals in Energy (YPE), a national networking group, were donning hard hats and harnesses to install a solar electric system for the Li family in San Francisco.
Not only did the YPE crew volunteer their time, they also worked hard all summer to raise over $9,000 to support the installation! Special thanks also to Jinko Solar, a GRID equipment partner whose donated panels were used for this project.
YPE members were inspired by GRID’s impacts to organize this fundraising and volunteering event. “There’s a great marriage with GRID [and YPE] where you learn something about energy and then you have the whole service aspect of helping low-income families,” explains Alex Portilla, of YPE’s Events Committee. “Within the membership of YPE, there’s a large constituency of people who believe and work in renewable energy and want to give back while at the same time learning more about it.”
“Being on the roof was very empowering and satisfying,” adds Peter Do, YPE’s highest fundraiser and newly minted GRID champion. “The YPE opportunity was really unique to me because it was addressing two things that are near and dear to my heart, two things that build on each other. Not only are we preventing greenhouse gases, we’re doing it in the context of affordable housing. It’s a win for everyone.”
YPE members are a true testament to the power of volunteerism in the growing solar revolution. Not only were they willing to climb a two-story house to install the solar panels but they went the extra mile to fundraise from their personal networks - even their own wallets - to support the installation. On behalf of the Li family, and everyone with a dream of going solar, thank you YPE!
Solarize your style!
Solar panels love sunshine. Your eyes? Not so much. So why not protect them the GRID way with a new, super stylish GRID Alternatives hat and sunglasses! All proceeds go towards funding GRID’s work to make solar power a clean, renewable alternative for families in need.
For $10, you can flaunt your own pair of GRID-green wayfarers and make the most of the Bay Area’s notoriously late summer. If a hat’s more your style, we’ve got some chic trucker hats for $25. Prices do not include shipping.
|GRID sunglasses||GRID trucker hat|
From GRID Volunteer to Solar Installer in Three Short Months
“The people you meet through GRID are potentially great resources to learn more or get your foot in the door for a job opportunity.” That couldn’t be more true for Luke Wojtaszek, who was recently hired as a paid solar installer for 510 Solar after only three short months as a GRID volunteer.
Luke’s fast track to solar employment couldn’t have happened without three key components: motivation, a little bit of luck, and volunteer experience through GRID.
Motivated by his interest in solar, Luke met a GRID Team Leader at a green networking event who recommended he get involved with GRID if he wanted to get solar installation experience. As luck would have it, that GRID Team Leader happened to be none other than Nate Blumenkrantz, founder of the solar installation company 510 Solar who got his start in solar as a GRID volunteer himself. Luke began his own journey to becoming a GRID Team Leader - gaining over 50 hours of installation experience - and didn’t forget to email Nate to thank him for the recommendation. Nate responded, this time not with a volunteer opportunity, but with information for a job opening at 510 Solar.
Luke’s volunteer install experience through GRID allowed him to land the job as an entry level solar installer for 510 Solar. In Luke’s words “GRID was my entry point into the solar industry. Without GRID, I wouldn't have had the experience to even apply for a job as a solar installer. The ability to become a Team Leader was even more help. It not only showed I know how to do things well enough to teach other volunteers, it also showed I was serious about solar”.
These stories of solar job connections are ones we hear often at GRID offices across the state. To date, our volunteers have landed jobs at over 30 renewable energy companies and counting. With the industry on the rise, we are hoping to increase our ability to connect volunteers to valuable job opportunities at respectable companies like 510 Solar. This is why we added our new Solar Employment Opportunities page to our website that has links to career and job opportunities at solar companies in the Bay Area. GRID is very fortunate to have many dedicated volunteers and advocates like Luke and Nate, and this makes us believe that there are many bright futures on the horizon for GRID volunteers seeking solar employment!
The Story of Bay Area Solarthon 2013
Empowering Richmond's Iron Triangle
“A double whammy: install solar AND give back to the old neighborhood! I’ll be there! My toolbelt is around here somewhere.”
This was the enthusiastic reaction of Tom Stucker, a GRID volunteer and Richmond native, when he found out that this year’s Bay Area Solarthon block party and fundraiser would be held in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood on Saturday, September 7th. That same day, Tom signed up as an individual fundraiser (aka Solar Champion) to support the event. In less than two weeks, he’ll be one of over 150 community volunteers, homeowners, Solar Champions, corporate sponsors and city representatives that will come together to bring the clean energy movement to the rooftops of the low-income families that need it most.
Richmond, a city that once held a beaming reputation for shipbuilding and military industriousness, is now best known for its high rates of poverty and pollution. The City of Richmond reports that two fifths of its residents live in poverty (double the poverty rate of Contra Costa County) and over half of the city’s jobs do not pay enough to sustain a family of four.1 Additionally, petrochemical refining and transportation activity abound in the area, with the result that Contra Costa Health Services states that the city’s children suffer hospitalization rates for asthma nearly twice as high as the state average.2
But despite these challenges, Richmond has been making great strides to improve the health and livelihoods of its residents. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has been working diligently with the city to curb air pollution, prioritize solar energy installation and strengthen opportunities for green job seekers. These green goals helped spur a natural partnership between GRID and Richmond: GRID has hosted job training students from both Solar Richmond and RichmondBUILD on our solar installations, providing them with hands on job-skill experience, as well as partnering with the City to install over 116 solar systems for vulnerable Richmond households. Solarthon, a solar installation block party and fundraiser where GRID will install solar for 8 low-income families in one day, represents our latest collaboration.
“We are excited to bring Solarthon to Richmond and showcase our city’s commitment to developing a community that is economically, environmentally and socially productive,” explains Mayor McLaughlin, who will be speaking at Solarthon’s morning program.
GRID is honored to be one of the solutions for increased health, sustainability and economic stability in Richmond. Our work has dramatically decreased many residents’ reliance on conventional, polluting energy sources, while saving vulnerable families thousands of dollars on their electricity bills - money they can redirect to housing and medical expenses, food, and education. The 8 solar systems that will be installed at Solarthon will continue these impacts, preventing over 466 tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions (the carbon offset equivalent of planting 11,000 trees!) and save these families over $148,000 over the lifetimes of the systems.
“The savings will help us send our two sons to college so they can have more opportunities in life,” said homeowner Delia Hernandez, one of the homeowners who will be receiving a solar system at Solarthon. Delia has wanted to install solar on her home for years, but unsteady employment for her and her husband has prevented it. “This is a great opportunity for our family, especially in these hard economic times. It’s important for all of us to help the planet and use less energy.”
The impacts of Solarthon extend even beyond these environmental and economic benefits. By bringing solar to a community that never thought they could have it, we’re demonstrating that everyone can be a leader in the clean energy revolution regardless of their socioeconomic status. GRID strongly believes that the most effective solutions for social and environmental change must be inclusive of all of our communities. See the Bay Area Solarthon website for ways you can help empower the Iron Triangle!
Pictured above: Mrs. Sanchez and her daughter help prepare their home for their solar installation. The Sanchez family is one of 8 families going solar in the Iron Triangle during Solarthon.
1. California. City of Richmond. Community Health and Wellness: City of Richmond General Plan Element 11. N.p., 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Aug. 2013. <http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/8579>.
2. Asthma. Contra Costa Health Services, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2013. <http://cchealth.org/topics/asthma/>.
From Malawi to Oakland: Solar Can Be a Great Connector
Thoko Mtchona, a current Oakland resident and GRID volunteer, is a professional electrician and has one of the biggest smiles in his neighborhood. However for Thoko, a Malawian immigrant with a passion for solar, his pathway to success hasn’t been status quo.
Thoko grew up in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, and throughout his life has always had an interest in electricity. At the young age of 11, Thoko was fixing broken radios, irons, and hot plates for his family, and with frequent power outages in his home city would follow around electricians to learn as much as he could from their work. After finishing high school Thoko got the opportunity to further his education as an electrician at Zomba Technical College. After receiving his diploma, Thoko was hired on by Lilongwe Wildlife Center where he was given the unique opportunity to install a solar PV system. This was the first time Thoko experienced the magic of solar, and he knew he had found a new passion.
When Thoko moved to Oakland two years later, he knew close to nothing about how his life in California would unfold. However he acclimated quickly and after completing an electrician training program in Hayward and securing a job at a small general contractor, Thoko and his wife Michelle began pursuing one of their lifelong dreams, installing solar on their own roof. But with the arrival of a brand new baby, the couple didn’t want to invest a large amount of money in a PV system. This is when Michelle came across GRID’s website.
Thoko and Michelle thought there had to be a catch to getting solar so cheaply. However three months after they made their first phone call to GRID, they had a crew of volunteers on their roof installing a 2.0 Kw system. Thoko, being so enthusiastic about solar, took two days off to help the GRID volunteers with the install and helped put the finishing touches on his roof.
Having the opportunity to be a part of his own home’s solar installation inspired Thoko to become a volunteer and help other families get access to solar technology. Thoko has been an excellent addition to the GRID community and with his big smile, and even bigger heart, has reminded us that installing solar can bring happiness to people from all over the world, and be the connector that makes our days a little brighter.
GRID and PG&E Creating Job Connections
On a sunny July afternoon in downtown San Francisco, hundreds of people lined the lobby of the PG&E Pacific Energy Center for one common purpose – to pursue a job in the solar industry at the first annual Solar Jobs Fair organized by PG&E and GRID Alternatives. Bringing together 13 companies and organizations in the solar industry, the Solar Jobs Fair gave the over 250 attendees the chance to talk to company reps, apply for jobs on the spot, and learn about solar companies that were previously unknown to them.
As one of the organizers of this brand new event, GRID had the opportunity to say hello to many of our amazing volunteers who were exploring options in the industry. Almost all of them mentioned that their GRID experience has given them a leg up in their job search, especially those who have gone through our Team Leader program. Another highlight of the Solar Jobs Fair was the overall number, quality and motivation of the attendees. Overall, these job seekers were interested in helping the environment, working for something they believe in, and being a part of a growing movement of clean renewable energy.
As the fair came to a close with attendees still eagerly streaming in, the excitement was still palpable. It seemed to represent the excitement of the always-expanding job opportunities in the solar industry. Solar is a growing movement, and as more people pursue careers in solar, this momentum grows and more renewable energy is produced. GRID is proud that we were part of the Solar Jobs Fair – a new and creative way for us to connect green job seekers with employers - and we look forward to expanding our integral role in providing low-income families access to solar technology while giving volunteers hands on experience, training, and motivation to keep the solar movement shining.
A bright and sunny Father's Day gift
Married for 60 years, Jose and Margarita give their best to their family, and they do it with a smile. When asked what their secret is for a happy marriage, Margarita playfully replies, “being the boss” before adding that “compromise, taking care of each other and not leaving at the first signs of complications” are also important. And, just in time for Father’s Day, their son Jose Jr. was able to return their hard work and dedication by working with GRID Alternatives to install a solar electric system on their San Jose home.
“I feel good about this! We’re trying to use the sun and natural power, and I’m trying to educate my parents, too,” comments Jose Jr., a renewable energy enthusiast who has studied solar installation at San Jose City College. “They're older, but I explain things to them: 'Hey this is what's going on - everybody is converting to help the universe because the universe is getting used up.' "
The Hernandez family’s 2.1 kilowatt system was installed with the support of volunteers from Google as a part of their GoogleServe event, who worked alongside Jose Jr. to complete the installation. The system they installed will not only prevent 62 tons of polluting greenhouse gas emissions, but will also save Jose and Margarita an estimated $19,600 over its lifetime. “They're on a fixed income and every little bit counts. They'll be saving quite a bit, it'll be more money in their pocket,” adds Jose Jr.
Jose and Margarita have a lot to be proud of in their son and GRID is excited to help him give back in such a meaningful way. To see photos of their installation, click here.