The Cano family of Greenfield built their own home from the ground up through CHISPA, a local affordable housing organization serving low-income families. Now they are powering it from the sun.Read the story
The photovoltaic systems installed during the 2012 Central Coast Solarthon are expected to prevent 557 tons of carbon emissions over their lifetime. That's the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road for a year!Read the story
Frank Walters was on the Central Coast Office’s first install, and now he can proudly say that he “placed the first of nine million panels at Topaz Solar Farm,” a 550 MW solar project under construction on the northwestern corner of the Carrisa Plains.Read the story
GRID Alternatives Central Coast leads teams of volunteers and job trainees to install solar electric systems for low-income families in the Central Coast area from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, providing families with needed savings and giving Central Coast workers hands-on experience to help them find jobs in the green-tech economy.
Central Coast NewsSee all news
- Erica Court, a normally quiet cul-de-sac in Oceano, CA was bursting with solar energy Saturday October… Read more
- The Cano family of Greenfield built their own home from the ground up through CHISPA, a local affordable… Read more
- “You’re working with a homeowner that’s excited; this may never happen otherwise for them, the workers… Read more
- We did it! In partnership with People’s Self-Help Housing, all 33 single-family homes in the Templeton… Read more
- Terry Blair, one of GRID Alternatives' team leaders who participated in over 25 solar installations benefitting… Read more
- The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program provides a foundation for promoting and building… Read more
- There is excitement here at the Central Coast GRID Alternatives office! On August 23rd, 2011, our then-Outreach… Read more
- Once again, a partnership between GRID Alternatives and a local employment training center has paid off… Read more
Solarthon gives Oceano homeowners a break
Erica Court, a normally quiet cul-de-sac in Oceano, CA was bursting with solar energy Saturday October 20th as more than 150 volunteers—individual sponsors, corporate teams, job trainees and the homeowners themselves—get up on roofs to install solar electric systems for eight low-income families during the GRID Alternatives Central Coast Solarthon. The event is an annual fundraiser for GRID Alternatives, a statewide nonprofit with offices in Atascadero that brings the benefits of solar technology—both jobs and savings—to communities that need it most.
"Today is a very special day for me, my family, and the environment,” said homeowner Marco Figueroa. “I don’t have words to express how grateful I am for this opportunity."
He and the other Solarthon families, whose homes were built by the county for low-income residents in 2001, will save approximately 75 percent on their electricity bills from day one, money they can use for food, clothing and other necessities. The installations are expected to save them a combined $180,000 over the 30-year lifetime of the systems, and prevent 557 tons of carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road for a year.
"GRID Alternatives provides an opportunity for communities like this one to not only save money but also contribute to a cleaner environment,” said Steven Fernandez, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives’ Central Coast office.
These systems are being provided at no cost to the families, thanks to a state rebate and support from donors, foundations, corporate sponsorships and San Louis Obispo County, which is providing a permit fee waiver for GRID Alternatives projects county-wide.
“One of our primary missions at the county is to provide safe, affordable and clean communities for our residents,” said San Louis Obispo County Supervisor Paul Texieria, who came out to support the event. “This project will roll over 20-30 times, benefitting families for years to come.”
It’s not just the homeowners who benefit from GRID Alternatives’ program, but volunteers and green job trainees as well. Frank Walters, a volunteer team leader at the event, got his start in solar by volunteering for GRID Alternatives and now is employed by First Solar installing solar at the Topaz Solar Farm, a 550 megawatt renewable energy project in the Carrizo Plains.
Saturday's Solarthon was one of seven such events being held around the state this year, and the second annual Central Coast Solarthon. Much like a walkathon, individuals raised money for the event through their personal networks, while corporations like Wells Fargo, Rabobank, Holland & Knapp Construction, and New Frontiers sponsored homes for their employee volunteers. GRID Alternatives’ official solar module providers, SunPower Corp. and Yingli Americas, also had employee and job training teams at the event. Special guests during a lunchtime presentation in Oceano included Congresswoman Lois Capps and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.
The installations brought the total number of families served in San Luis Obispo County to 103; GRID Alternatives has installed more than 2,600 solar electric systems statewide.
Greenfield is going green with solar power!
The Cano family of Greenfield built their own home from the ground up through CHISPA, a local affordable housing organization serving low-income families. Now they are powering it from the sun. GRID raised a solar electric system to their roof on Monday, June 18th and Tuesday, June 19th with a team of job training students from the Center for Employment Training (CET) in Gilroy, bringing them clean power that will help them live more affordably in their new home. Supervisor Simon Salinas and CHISPA’s President/CEO Alfred Diaz-Infante were on site to get a first-hand look at a community bursting with solar power.
Supervisor Simon Salinas said, “I was happy to see GRID Alternatives doing great work in the Salinas Valley. …I hope to see them continue their work throughout the Salinas Valley!”
GRID Alternatives Central Coast has installed 62 solar electric systems in Monterey County with the help of volunteers, job trainees, subcontractors and corporate and individual donations since 2010. These systems are generating over two megawatts of renewable power from the rooftops of affordable housing homeowners with no out-of-pocket cost to the homeowners.
Fourteen of those installations have been in Greenfield, saving its affordable housing community an average of $300 annually per family. The Cano family’s system (16 Yingli Energy Panels and 16 Enphase Energy Micro Inverters) was powered up on August 8, 2012, and will save them $450 a year, money they can use on food, clothing and other family necessities.
The systems are also helping clean the region’s air, generating new power than won’t have to come from non-renewable sources. Over their projected 30 year lifespans, these fourteen systems in Greenfield alone will prevent 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of planting 31 million trees!
GRID volunteers getting green jobs
“You’re working with a homeowner that’s excited; this may never happen otherwise for them, the workers are excited. It’s a win/win for everyone,” says volunteer Frank Walters about his volunteer experience with GRID Alternatives. Frank Walters lives in the Los Angeles area, but comes up to the Central Coast frequently to volunteer. He was on GRID Alternatives Central Coast Office’s first install, and now he can proudly say that he “placed the first of nine million panels at Topaz Solar Farm,” a 550 MW solar project under construction on the northwestern corner of the Carrisa Plains.
“Topaz Solar Farm has over 500 people currently working on site constructing the 550 megawatt utility scale solar project which will produce enough energy to power 160,000 homes,” Dawn Legg, First Solar Assistant Project Manager says about the installation. Members from the local community make up a large portion of the workforce at the power plant. Frank is one of three GRID volunteers who recently got hired at the Topaz Solar Farm, along with Josh Carter from Nipomo and John Diaz who recently moved to Atascadero from Santa Barbara.
As a nonprofit solar installer, GRID Alternatives provides a "classroom in the field" where folks can gain hands-on experience in a real-world solar installation environment, while under the supervision and guidance of our experienced, professional solar installation staff. In addition to working directly with formal solar installation training programs, we also provide unemployed or underemployed individuals from the general public with the same training and experiences through our volunteer and team leader programs. Each installation offers our volunteers hands-on installation experience and networking opportunities. For individuals who want to get even more experience and a more comprehensive skill set, we offer a Team Leader program.
“Volunteering looks great on a resume,” Walters says. “When learning the basics of a residential system (solar installation), GRID is the best way to go!”
One entire neighborhood goes solar with GRID!
We did it! In partnership with People’s Self-Help Housing, all 33 single-family homes in the Templeton Terebinth Lane self-help development have a complete Yingli photovoltaic (PV) system installed by GRID Alternatives.
Thank you to all of our 226 volunteers who dedicated 3,139 hours to this development. The volunteers that have worked on this development are self-help home builders, community members, job trainees, and corporate sponsors from our first Central Coast Solarthon. Also, special thanks goes to San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors for their unanimous approval of a temporary fixed-amount permit fee waiver that 30 of the 33 homes benefited from.
Together with your hard work and these savings, we leveraged a long term positive triple-bottom-line impact in your local community: Environment, Education, Savings.
Combined these PV systems are producing 77.2 kWh of renewable energy, while preventing 2,276 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. The power produced by these systems is the equivalent of planting 53,513 trees, while saving 33 low-income families $555,389.20over the life of the systems (30 years). All 33 systems were installed while providing hands-on training for 226 volunteers.
Your hard work and commitment to GRID Alternatives’ mission has culminated in a success. Thank you again and congratulations on a job well done to all of the volunteers and Solarthon sponsors that helped make the installations of this development a local positive impact. GRID Central Coast celebrates this success with you!
Terry Blair Memorial Fund
Terry Blair, one of GRID Alternatives' team leaders who participated in over 25 solar installations benefitting low-income families, passed away over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Terry was part of a family of dedicated volunteers who due to the current economic recession found themselves out of work and looking for a fresh start in the renewable energy sector.
Terry could be counted on by our staff at GRID Alternatives to help spread our mission of providing renewable energy equipment, services and training to communities in need. Terry was a great teacher and mentor to many new volunteers who showed up at our installations, taking them under his wing and showed them how to bend conduit or wire up an inverter. Terry was a humble leader, and would always take a step back to let someone new try something for the first time. If the volunteers didn’t get something quite right his patient teaching and kind words of encouragement were all they needed to give it another try or two.
Although he was a great team leader, he was also a great student. Terry was always ready to ask questions when he was unsure how to proceed. He understood the importance of learning from those around him. Terry’s willingness to learn was complimented by his eagerness to land a job in solar sales. Everyone at GRID Alternatives was so happy for Terry when his dream came true and he landed that job.
People like Terry don’t come around that often.
Today, January 19th is his birthday and his parents, Patty and John Blair, have created a Firstgiving Memorial Fund to celebrate his work and life. Click here for the Terry Blair Memorial Fund where you can donate to support the efforts of volunteers like Terry.
Terry, you will be remembered by GRID Alternatives staff and volunteers for what you brought to the table; patience, a big heart, a great sense of humor, and your willingness to help others. We are going to miss you, brother.
SASH Program fosters new workforce development partnerships in solar
The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program provides a foundation for promoting and building a sustainable solar industry in California by making workforce development and job training an integral part of the program. The SASH Program will potentially provide solar installation opportunities to over 120,000 job trainees and volunteers throughout California, totaling more than one million hours of hands-on solar installation experience.
In addition to the job training experience provided through GRID Alternatives’ popular volunteer-based installation model, the SASH Program further promotes partnerships between other local contractors and job training organizations. SASH’s subcontractor partners hire at least one entry-level solar job trainee for every SASH installation they perform.
In Monterey, Solex - Applied Solar Energy hired job trainees for more than twenty SASH installations from the nonprofit job training organization Rancho Cielo. Rancho Cielo prepares at-risk and paroled youth for future employment through training in various construction-related fields.
Rancho Cielo’s Executive Director Susie Brusa spoke about the SASH and SPP Program workforce development efforts, “Having an opportunity like this for our graduates to work with new technology, on projects that are good for the earth, has benefits beyond the paycheck. It’s great that we have partnerships with companies that will hire our graduates.”
Anthony Boncutter, a lead solar installer from Solex, spoke about the experiences of the Rancho Cielo youth that worked on his team: “They get a good understanding of how the systems are put together, from installing the standoffs and roof attachments all the way to the electrical. We really try to educate them on the electrical side.”
Through the SASH Program, contractors have the opportunity to develop the skills they wish to see in the workforce, and job trainees gain access to paid hands-on experience.
Unprecedented permit fee waiver approved!
There is excitement here at the Central Coast GRID Alternatives office! On August 23rd, 2011, our then-Outreach Coordinator, Sandra Knapp (currently Development Officer), stood before the Board of Supervisors of San Luis Obispo County and presented a permit fee waiver request. Fortunately, it was approved! The county granted the fee waiver because our projects meet a public need, provide a public benefit, and also provide something that is not otherwise available. For example, GRID Alternatives provides multiple benefits such as: reducing homeowner's energy costs by 75-90%, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions, raising property values, and training volunteers/job trainees.
With this approval, $100,000 in installation fees will be waived over a course of 5 years (with an option of reporting back to the Board when we reach $90,000 for a second potential waiver). This will cover permit costs for 33 projects a year and GRID Alternatives will now be able to fund installations for an additional 50-100 homes. This is the first time a county has granted a permit fee waiver to GRID Alternatives, so we're very grateful about this step forward. And also, a great job to Sandra for helping make this happen!
To read more, there is also an article in the San Luis Obispo tribune: click here.
Job trainee finds success volunteering with GRID
Once again, a partnership between GRID Alternatives and a local employment training center has paid off for someone who wanted to join the ranks of the solar industry. Jon Smith, who attended Cabrillo College of Aptos, has been hired as a solar installer by REC Solar.
Cabrillo College's green-tech classes combined with volunteering at GRID's installations on the Central Coast gave Jon the edge he needed in a competitive job market. David Garti, an Outreach Coordinator from the Central Coast office who recruited him noted that, "Jon had the passion needed to succeed, we just provided him the tools to get him there." Here's a picture of Jon installing his expertly bent conduit to the side of a house in Greenfield.