Generating happy homeowners
Central Valley Homeowner Esmeralda Avila, single mother of four, beams as she turns her system on for the first time. It will save her family an average of $1000 a year over its life.
For the next generation
Whole communities learn how solar power is cleaning the air to ensure a healthy future for their children.
Real world experience
Job trainees from Center for Employment Training get hands-on experience installing a solar electric system for a low-income homeowner in San Jose, CA.
GRID Alternatives leads teams of volunteers and job trainees to install solar electric systems exclusively for low-income homeowners, providing needed savings for families struggling to make ends meet, preparing workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry and reducing carbon emissions.
News from the FieldSee all news
- Give today, and we'll put your dollars to work tomorrow, making solar energy affordable for everyone… Read more
- This fall, GRID Alternatives partnered for the first time with solar non-profit Power to the People to… Read more
- “We wanted to give college students who are passionate about renewable energy the chance to turn that… Read more
- The Governor's signature on the Equitable Access to Solar Energy Bill (AB217) means continued access… Read more
- The Bay Area Young Professionals in Energy show that you can learn a lot while giving back. Read more
- Residents of this Far Rockaway neighborhood have spent the past year rebuilding their homes and lives… Read more
- Miguel Rodriguez is about to pioneer solar in his neighborhood with help from GRID and a crew of hard-working… Read more
- Jolyn Bright got on the roof to help with her installation as we kicked off our east coast expansion… Read more
- Diane struggles to make ends meet with sky-high electricity bills from her medical equipment, making… Read more
Celebrating 10 years of solar
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
Partnership lights up Los Calpules, Nicaragua
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!
Solar Spring Break is here!
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.”
Solar Equity Bill Becomes Law!
Thousands of low-income families across California are now assured access to money-saving solar technology and clean energy jobs training in the coming years, with the Governor’s signature on The Equitable Access to Solar Energy Bill (AB217). The new law, signed on October 8, extends California’s groundbreaking low-income solar programs to the year 2021, achieving similar installation targets with only half the current budget.
“Today, the Governor affirmed the idea that investing in solar in low-income communities can have a positive multiplier effect in green energy, lower bills, and job training,” said Assembly Member Steven Bradford, co-author of AB 217. “I appreciate Governor Brown’s ongoing support for this common sense measure.”
The two programs, the Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes and Multi-Family Affordable Solar Housing Programs (SASH and MASH), offer solar rebates for families who meet strict income requirements and live in affordable housing, while creating solar job training opportunities in the fast-growing industry. The first of their kind in the nation, the programs began in 2009 through the California Solar Initiative and were originally slated to sunset in 2015.
GRID Alternatives, which administers the SASH program on behalf of the California Public Utilities Commission, sponsored the bill. GRID has installed solar electric systems for over 3,000 low-income families throughout California through SASH and has incorporated hands-on job training and volunteerism into every project.
“These programs have produced significant monthly energy cost-savings that families can use to put food on the table, pay medical expenses, or send their kids to college,” said Erica Mackie, GRID CEO and co-founder.
“The Governor’s signature means that families across California will continue to see the benefits of low-cost clean energy, and we’ll be able to provide even more workers with the hands-on experience and networking opportunities they need to get hired in the growing solar industry.”
Out of the office and onto 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.
“There’s a great marriage between 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 in 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. “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 Jinko 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!
#GRIDGoesEast: Rebuilding together in Far Rockaway
“Four feet inside, eight feet outside. And not just water; sewage too. It smelled terrible.” That was how Johnnie McQueen described the state of his home after Hurricane Sandy swept through Far Rockaway last year. He and his neighbors in this quiet affordable housing community just blocks from the beach lost just about everything on the ground floor – couches and bookshelves, photographs, even the walls and floors.
Most of them have rebuilt by now, but the memories remain, and what all of them remember the most was that no one was there to help them.
“There was no one around” said Jesus Bottaro, Johnnie’s next-door neighbor. “I mean no one. Not a single policeman, National Guard, fireman, no one, not even a plane to survey the damage. We had no lights for weeks.”
Today, Johnnie and his wife Cecelia, Jesus and his family, and another neighbor Brenda Montague finally got a break from what has been a long, hard year: Thirty-some volunteers from NRG Energy, Solar One, World Wildlife Fund, Vote Solar and the community installed solar electric systems on their rooftops that will save them more than eighty percent on their electrical bills going forward. The families came to GRID through Margert Community Corporation, a community-based organization that developed these houses and is working to help residents get their homes back together again and get on with their lives.
“Everything is different after Sandy,” said Cecelia, who has been out of work on temporary disability for the past eight months. “We are still struggling financially. And there’s so much rebuilding we haven’t done.
“Every dollar helps.”
Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered the day her 5 year-old grandson, who was living with her, came home and saw the mess. “He said ‘grandma, are all my things really gone?’ That was the worst.” Cecelia plans to use part of her first month’s savings from solar to repair his toy truck, whose motor stopped working from the flood.
“This is truly a joyous moment,” she said, as she and Johnnie flipped the switch on their system at the end of a long day. “Thank you.”
It was an incredible way to end an incredible week of work on the East Coast. People like Johnnie and Cecelia and communities like Far Rockaway are the reason we came, and the reason we’re coming back for more. New York, New Jersey, see you in 2014! Click here for media coverage of these installations.
Want to get involved? Sign up for our newsletter and monthly updates to learn about upcoming opportunities, or visit www.gridalternatives.org/nynj.
#GRIDGoesEast: No Solar in Sight...Yet
From his rooftop, Miguel Rodriguez can see the elementary school he went to, the public library, the elevated rails of New York City’s Metro system and hundreds of rooftops. But for all that real estate, not a single solar panel. An NYPD cop who helps support three generations of family under one roof, Miguel is about to become GRID Alternatives’ first New York client and the first in his neighborhood to go solar.
“The cost of living is so high here, and every couple of years the utility rates go up,” Miguel said “Solar is something I always noticed and thought about but if you don’t have the money you can’t really do it. Now I have the opportunity to do it. It’s really going to help with our payments.”
The installation, along with another GRID Alternatives build a few blocks away, is also going to help 23-year-old Vanessa Williams and 15 of her fellow corps members with Green City Force get a taste of a new career possibility. They are part of a program that helps young adults living in New York public housing explore green careers and get the basic skills they need for college and/or employment.
“It’s great to be able to get out here and get hands on. You don’t know if you are actually going to like doing something until you try it out, and this helps us decide what careers we want.” Before coming to Green City Force she did a computer science program, but the certificate she got wasn’t enough to get a job. “If you don’t have any experience, you can’t get a job, but how do you get experience without a job?”
Green City Force’s corps members will be getting on the roof with GRID for the rest of the week getting plenty of solar experience as we bring clean power to Miguel and four other families across the region. We’re looking forward to seeing more of them in 2014!
(Photo: Vanessa Williams, left, installs conduit on Miguel Rodriguez's house)
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates on our progress as we go.
#GRIDGoesEast: From Sandy to Solar for the Bright Family
It’s 2pm on a Monday afternoon, and Jolyn Bright is up on her roof in Asbury Park, NJ with a team of employee volunteers from NRG Energy, installing the first-ever GRID Alternatives solar electric system on the Eastern seaboard. It was just under a year ago that a tree came crashing through the roof of her rented home during Hurricane Sandy, leaving her, like so many others along this coast, homeless. She and her husband Warren went to stay with her mother while the house was being fixed, but when they returned it was full of mold. Instead of fixing it, their landlord kicked them out.
Soon after, though, their luck turned, and they got the opportunity to buy their own home through Affordable Housing Alliance, a local housing non-profit.
“It’s all happened so fast, first the house and now this,” said Jolyn, pointing at the roof. The system is expected to save the Brights about $350 on their electrical bill in the first year.
“I’m so excited,” she said, beaming with pride after coming down from the roof at the end of the day. “I’m going to save energy and save money. We never even thought we’d be able to have our own home. And I love that I get to help put the panels on. I didn’t get to help build my house, but I can help with this.”
The Bright’s home is one of seven that will be going solar through our New York/New Jersey launch this week, two here in Asbury Park, two in East New York and another three in Far Rockaway, an area that bore the brunt of last year’s hurricane. As usual, we’re doing it with the help of an amazing assemblage of community partners, sponsors like NRG and Wells Fargo, and of course, the families themselves.
Click here for photos from our day with NRG, Jolyn, Warren and their neighbors Annette and Orlando. Want to see more? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on our progress as we go.
Making a Difference
Diane Arellano stopped to admire what was happening on her neighbor's roof: a GRID Alternatives solar installation. She walked up to our GRID staff and inquired about our program - being disabled and needing to run oxygen 24/7 makes her electricity bills sky-high, and she knew solar could help her stretch her limited monthly budget further.
Several years ago Diane suffered an injury that left the single mother unable to work full-time. She supports herself and her son Stone, who is also disabled, with a part-time job, but sometimes it's not enough. With her 3.4 kW solar system, Diane will be saving at least 65 percent on her electricty bills; over the next few decades that will amount to over $27,000 she'll have to support herself and her son.
Her son Stone, pictured here, was very excited to learn about solar and renewable energy, and ecstatic to help on the install alongside our community volunteers. Every day our volunteers and sponsors support solar for families like Diane's- click here to learn more about volunteering or donate to GRID to bring solar to people who need it the most.