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 from Santa Barbara County to Santa Cruz County, providing families with needed savings and giving Central Coast workers hands-on experience to help them find jobs in the green-tech economy. Since 2010, we have installed 400 solar arrays, saved families $9 million, prevented 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases, and trained more than 1,100 people who donated more than 21,000 volunteer hours.
For a list of our upcoming volunteer opportunities, click here.
Central Coast NewsSee all news
- It’s a brand new year! We at GRID Alternatives Central Coast are happy to welcome 2014, which marks… Read more
- Our future is determined in large part by the choices we make every day both large and small. If all… Read more
- Recently, two solar companies reached out to Volunteer Coordinators throughout GRID letting us know of… Read more
- 35 incoming Cal Poly students joined us in Los Osos as part of their "Week of Welcome" activities. They… Read more
- Two important partners came together to bring new light to a small corner of San Luis Obispo on August… Read more
- The quiet community of Rancho Moro Cojo lit up on June 22nd when GRID Alternatives Central Coast hosted… Read more
- 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
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
It’s a brand new year! We at GRID Alternatives Central Coast are happy to welcome 2014, which marks our fourth year of operations in a region which covers Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County, Monterey County, San Benito County and Santa Cruz County. Just as we closed 2013, we bid farewell to Steven Fernandez, our first regional director, and welcomed Anna Lisa Lukes, who succeeded him in late November. While Steven has made a change in coordinates, he remains with GRID Alternatives, helping to launch our Tri-State Area office which spans the states of New York-New Jersey-Connecticut.
Anna Lisa comes to us from Southern California, where she most recently worked as Vice President of Organizational Advancement of an affordable housing and community development organization that is part of the national NeighborWorks America network. While she is new to the Central Coast region, collaborating through public-nonprofit-private partnerships is familiar to Anna Lisa, having previously secured financing for and created programs that added value and made a positive impact on the lives of low- and moderate-income people. Anna Lisa holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship, a Juris Doctor and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management.
In December, Justin Hitchcock joined us as our bilingual English/Spanish Outreach Coordinator. Although Justin is new to our Central Coast office, he comes to us from our Greater Los Angeles office, where he worked for 2 years. Justin gained extensive outreach experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, where he worked on several community projects focusing on environmental initiatives and youth development. Justin studied Civil Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
As GRID Alternatives Central Coast ramps up for the new year, our staff members reflect on our first three years, during which we installed 400 solar arrays, saved families $9 million, prevented 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases, and trained thousands of people for jobs in the solar industry. Our impact has been made possible by so many supporters – corporate sponsors, individual and in-kind donors, affordable housing partners, local governments, job training partners, volunteers and of course, our staff.
We started 2014 excited about continuing to help those who need it the most; people like Enrique Martinez of Salinas. In early January, Enrique got on his roof to help our construction staff and volunteers install his 9 panel system. We look forward to hearing about all the great things he’ll do with the over $8,000 in savings the system will provide over its lifetime.
We also began the year eager to continue and strengthen relationships with existing supporters and creating new ones. We launched a new partnership with the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority, which donated significant advertising space on buses that will run throughout SLO County during the first two months of the year. This partnership will help us raise even more awareness about our mission, as well as invite people to volunteer with us and support our work.
Thank you for your interest in GRID Alternatives Central Coast and we invite you help us continue our work. Join us as we build upon what we have done – learn more about us, attend an event, help out at a solar installation, spread the word and give to GRID Alternatives today.
The Choices We Make
by Peter Schaab, Volunteer and Training Coordinator, GRID Alternatives Central Coast
Our future is determined in large part by the choices we make every day both large and small. If all we’ve done as a society has been to dirty our air with factories and power plants, we can choose cleaner methods of energy production. If we’ve hit a rough patch in our personal lives, we can choose to fight despair with education and mental discipline. A recent event in the Central Coast brought two groups together that made those better choices which point a way towards a brighter future for us all.
Topaz Solar Farm, located about one hour east of San Luis Obispo, hosted an educational event for the Grizzly Academy, a charter high school operated by the California National Guard. The Solar Farm is currently the largest permitted solar photovoltaic power plant in the world with a planned output of 550 megawatts. Grizzly Cadets, ranging from 16-19 years old, voluntarily enroll in the Academy after either dropping out or falling seriously behind in traditional high school. Maria Kelly, Community Relations Specialist at MidAmerican Solar (the owner of Topaz Solar Farm) organized a tour and presentation that introduced almost 100 Cadets to the plentiful career choices in the solar industry. They saw the sheer enormity of the plant from its 9 million thin film solar panels to its over 600 construction staff working diligently to connect them to the electrical grid that powers homes and businesses throughout California.
What drove home the personal meaning of such a large infrastructure project were presentations by staff from MidAmerican Solar and First Solar (developer of the project). Safety Manager Sandy Dodge and Project Manager Gary Hood recalled their career paths and the smart choices they made that led them to gainful employment in a noble and critical industry. Sandy's career traveling the country showed how one could have stable employment and a little adventure too. Gary’s Navy experience caught the attention of the Cadets who were considering entering the military and wondering what lives may await them at the end of their service. Both emphasized how much the solar and utility industries need new talent to meet the demands of the future. I was honored to represent GRID Alternatives during the presentation to show how Cadets can start building solar skillsets right now on one of our installations. Much of what is learned on a GRID Alternatives project is closely related to the methods and technologies used at facilities like Topaz Solar Farm. It certainly didn’t hurt that one of the Cadet’s mentors, Ken Miles, has been volunteering with our Central Coast office and could personally attest to the benefits of joining us on an installation. His enthusiasm was contagious: multiple Cadets immediately signed up to volunteer after the event.
The event at Topaz Solar Farm made a sizable impact on me and I’m sure it did for the Cadets as well. It was so inspiring to see a large human-engineered project with a positive impact being built in our backyard. And watching the eyes light up on individuals that just a few months ago were heading towards failure gives me hope that there will be plenty of people in the future that will be working to build more such projects. Of course it’s up to them to decide what to do next, but I have faith that they’ll make the right choice.
Local Solar Companies Are Hiring GRID Volunteers!
November 6th, 2013
Recently, two solar companies reached out to Volunteer Coordinators throughout GRID letting us know of some unique (and paid) installation work that they think GRID volunteers would be great candidates for. These sound like amazing opportunities to take your solar skills and career ambitions to the next level...
Slingshot Power (www.slingshotpower.com) is an up and coming solar company in the Bay Area that has an innovative training program for people who are enthusiastic about starting a career in solar. Their training program matches trainees with experienced solar installers which train them on-site, learning the entire installation process. The trainees work for 6 months installing solar. After the training, all trainees’ performance will be reviewed to see where they best fit within Slingshot Power. Those who want to pursue additional positions in the industry will be given the opportunity to attend professional development workshops that can lead to marketing, design, sales, or different positions within the company. Slingshot Power’s vision is to hire on the trainees for long term employment after the training ends. Some of the benefits of the program include:
- An Hourly training wage of $10 per hour with performance bonus (up to 50%) based on efficiency and customer satisfaction
- 20 - 40 Estimated hours per week
- Flexible Hours
- Training leading to long term employment
Qualities of eligible candidates should include but aren’t limited to:
- Enthusiasm about solar and interest in a long career in the solar industry
- Interest in continuing with Slingshot Power after the training program
- Interest in starting off as an installer but have ambitions to learn about other positions in the industry (design, sales, marketing, etc)
- Be able to commit at least 20 hours per week for 6 months
- Previous participation in GRID installs
Slingshot Power is interested in hiring GRID volunteers for their program. If you are interested in applying for the position please email your resume with the subject line “Slingshot Training Program” to Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will forward your resumes onto Slingshot, include your volunteer history with GRID, and put in a good word for you.
Sandbar Solar and Electric
Sandbar Solar and Electric (www.sandbarsc.com) is hiring installers to join their crews for a couple large jobs they just picked up. These positions are temporary but can lead to full time employment.
Dates: Mid-November through December
Wage: Sliding scale based on experience
Experience needed: At least 3 GRID installs or one GRID install combined with previous solar classes or experience.
Location: Palo Alto and Santa Cruz
How to apply: Please send resume to David (email@example.com), and include "Response to GRID job opp" in the subject line.
A Sunny Welcome
35 incoming Cal Poly students joined us in Los Osos as part of their "Week of Welcome" activities on September 20th and 21st. They got to see first-hand the work we did to bring clean and affordable solar energy to the Thompson family's new home. It was a joy to see their enthusiasm for volunteerism, sustainability, and solar technology.
GRID Alternatives Central Coast welcomes all new and returning Cal Poly students back to our beautiful region...and we invite them to join us on more installs!
An Enlightening Partnership
Two important partners came together to bring new light to a small corner of San Luis Obispo on August 24th, 2013 when GRID Alternatives hosted one of its annual Solarthon fundraisers. Three homes being built by Habitat for Humanity of San Luis Obispo County were outfitted with solar electric systems during the event, thanks to around 50 volunteers and job trainees. When the houses are completed in September, three deserving families will move into homes crafted by the hands of volunteers and powered by the rays of the sun.
“The savings are going to have a huge impact on our family,” said homeowners Andrea and Daryn Flem, whose family will be receiving a solar system during the event. “It allows us the opportunity to save for education for our two young children.”
They and the other Solarthon families will save approximately 75 percent on their electricity bills from day one, money they can use for food, clothing and other necessities, and the systems will prevent almost 200 tons of carbon emissions over their expected 30-year lifespan. Including today’s event, GRID Alternatives has installed 139 systems in San Luis Obispo County since 2011.
“Partnerships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity are instrumental in building strong communities,” said Steve Fernandez, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives’ Central Coast office, which hosted the event. “At Solarthon, you really see folks of all different backgrounds coming together to pitch in.”
It isn’t just homeowners that benefit from the solar installations. Serena Bruce is one of thousands of job trainees who have received valuable work experience through GRID Alternatives’ program to-date. A PG&E Solar Intern for GRID Alternatives Central Coast, she has spent the past year learning the ins and outs of solar installation and leading other job trainees through the process. PG&E has been a significant supporter of GRID Alternative’s mission to help people like Ms. Bruce break in to the growing solar industry, and Ms. Bruce will be leading a team of PG&E employee volunteers at the event, her last solar installation before the internship concludes. She will continue with GRID Alternatives as a full-time employee.
“This is the kind of experience you can’t get in the classroom,” said Ms. Bruce, “and it’s so rewarding to be out here teaching people skills and supporting the movement towards cleaner energy.”
Many local community leaders were on site as well to celebrate the installation of these systems, including San Luis Obispo County District Supervisor Adam Hill.
“We’re so lucky to have them [GRID Alternatives and Habitat for Humanity] in the community,” said Hill. “It is a community that’s committed to doing everything we can to move towards alternative forms of energy.”
Such tangible impact to a region’s environmental and economic health is not a trait unique to GRID Alternatives, but it is an organization that has proven highly effective in empowering individuals to fight wide-ranging issues such as foreclosure, unemployment, and pollution. Continued collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, coupled with the generous support of corporate sponsors and government agencies, promises even more positive developments in the future.
In addition to PG&E and Habitat for Humanity of San Luis Obispo County, sponsors of SLO Solarthon 2013 included SunPower Corp.; Wells Fargo; Yingli Solar; Schneider Electric; Enphase Energy; Jinko Solar; Suntech; REC Solar; and SnapNRack.
Electric Roofs and Wheels Light Up Castroville
The quiet community of Rancho Moro Cojo lit up on June 22nd when GRID Alternatives Central Coast hosted its annual Solarthon fundraiser and block party. Around 100 people—community volunteers, corporate sponsor teams and solar job trainees—showed up at 8am to install solar electric systems for five deserving local families.
“I had heard about solar because my sister worked in a solar panel manufacturing plant,” said homeowner Carmen Luz Camarena, whose family received a solar electric system during the event. “But I never thought we would be able to have it. It’s just incredible the savings this energy from the sun will create in our budget.”
She and the other Solarthon families will save approximately 75 percent on their electricity bills from day one, money they can use for food, clothing and other necessities, and the systems will prevent 400 tons of carbon emissions over their expected 30-year lifespan. Today’s installations brought to 71 the total number of systems installed by GRID in this affordable housing development since 2010.
“It’s been an incredible community effort getting solar on these homes,” said Steve Fernandez, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives’ Central Coast office, which hosted the event. “From job trainees getting hands-on experience to our corporate sponsors to our homeowners, everyone pitches in.”
Serena Bruce is one of those who got valuable work experience up on the roof Saturday. A PG&E Solar Intern for GRID Alternatives Central Coast, she is spending a year learning the ins and outs of solar installation and leading other job trainees on the roof.
“This is the kind of experience you can’t get in the classroom,” she said, “and it’s so rewarding to be out here teaching people skills and supporting a community.”
Many local community leaders were on site as well to celebrate the installation of these systems, including Monterey County District Supervisors Louis Calcagno and Simon Salinas. Many commended the work of the homeowners, who each put in 1400 hours of sweat equity as a down-payment on their homes.
“The program that you’re sponsoring and working with today is a program that not only is doing job training,” said Monterey County 2nd District Supervisor Louis Calcagno, “but is helping in this community. Putting solar up is going one step further to help them become even more self-dependent.”
In addition to the sea of solar being put up an Electric Car Show was taking place, hosted by the Electric Auto Association of the Central Coast and the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Association. Solarthon participants and neighborhood passersby got a chance to check out cars like a Tesla Roadster, THINK City and even test drive a Toyota RAV4 EV and Chevy Volt.
Event sponsors included: SunPower Corp.; Wells Fargo; Yingli Solar; Schneider Electric; Enphase Energy; Jinko Solar; Suntech; Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Hartnell College; Solex/Applied Solar Energy; SnapNRack; and CHISPA and South County Housing, the community’s developers.
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!”