Jose Damian got his solar electric system while battling cancer for the second time, and was relieved for a break from the bills.Read more
Getting hands-on with solar inspired one volunteer to do more for the planet.Read her story
Like many volunteers, Hector Villegas was hired by a local solar contractor after getting hands-on experience with GRID.Read more
Get ready for Solarthon 2013, coming May 18th to San Diego.Learn more
GRID Alternatives San Diego bridges the solar divide, bringing solar energy to low-income families who couldn’t otherwise afford it while training the green workforce of tomorrow.
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- The 'whoosh' of the email announcing our 2013 Solarthon had barely faded away when Peter Brooks contacted… Read more
- On a hot day in August, a crew of solar installers from Real Goods Solar pulled into a dusty driveway… Read more
- A Millenial’s experience at San Diego Solarthon 2012, by San Diego Volunteer Lauren Lindner Read more
- Jose Damian is a cancer survivor, one of our amazing homeowners who is full of life and determination… Read more
- Hector Villegas was unemployed and although he had a desire to work in the green energy field, he lacked… Read more
Off to a Sweet Start
The 'whoosh' of the email announcing our 2013 Solarthon had barely faded away when Peter Brooks contacted us. "We benefited from Solarthon 2011 in Azalea Park and would like to give back." Peter and his partner Matt Klimjack run Savory-n-Sweet Treats, a catering company specializing in treats that are, as their website says, "...a little indulgent, often decadent, and always unforgettable." We can vouch for that! Peter offered up sunshine cupcakes for the cause and we are thrilled to take him up on it. One more reason not to miss San Diego Solarthon on May 18th. Thanks Peter and Matt!
GRID and Real Goods Partner to Power Tribal Homes
On a hot day in August, a crew of solar installers from Real Goods Solar pulled into a dusty driveway on the La Jolla Indian reservation on the rural northeastern edge of San Diego County, nearly two hours from San Diego. Doris Magante and her flock of grandchildren and great-grandchildren were waiting for them. They had, in fact, been waiting for more than a year. Since early 2011, GRID Alternatives has been working here with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians to bring badly needed solar energy to the community. But with the long distances and uncharted regulatory process for solar installations on the reservation, progress has been slow. Now, thanks to Real Goods Solar, one of GRID Alternatives’ subcontracting partners and one of the only solar contractors working in this part of the state, systems are finally going up.
The La Jolla band is one of 14 Native American communities that GRID has worked with across California, helping reduce electricity costs for nearly 80 families in some of the most remote and underserved areas. The need for economic relief and employment opportunities in tribal communities is pronounced: despite some successful gaming tribes, a third of California Native Americans have incomes below the federal poverty line, and as a whole comprise the state’s poorest ethnic group. But many tribes take their responsibility to the environment very seriously.
“Native Americans have as a people been very concerned with natural resources, self-sufficiency, caring for the land,” said Rob Roy, Environmental Director for the La Jolla tribe. “GRID’s program has been so wonderful in assisting low-income people to go solar, which in turn increases their pride in their reservation and in their homes, and helps promote self-sufficiency.”
For Ms. Magante it’s an easy win. A retiree who recently recovered from major surgery, she cares for as many as seven children at a time, some of them her own progeny, others fostered. When she first moved into her home, she was paying $400-$500 per month in utility costs, most of it from summer air conditioning. Now, thanks to a combination of energy efficiency measures and her new solar system, her bills will drop by up to 90 percent.
“The homeowners are astounded by the savings,” said Mr. Roy. “The first homeowner’s bill dropped from $150-200 to $10, right when his kids were starting school. He was able to buy school supplies and new shoes for his daughter rather than spending that money on energy.”
Ten families in the tribe have gone solar through GRID so far, for a projected savings of nearly $470,000 over the lifetime of their systems. And Real Goods, which has done six of the installations, is thrilled with the arrangement. “Real Goods Solar is always eager and honored to work with GRID Alternatives to bring solar electric power to the deserving residents of the local tribal organizations,” said Real Goods Solar’s Construction Manager Aaron Ross. “The challenges of working in these communities are real, but the rewards are greater than perhaps any other installations we perform.”
Make Like Woody Allen
A Millenial’s experience at San Diego Solarthon 2012 by San Diego Volunteer Lauren Lindner
I briefly wondered what I’d been thinking in signing up for the 2012 GRID Alternatives Solarthon when my alarm went off at 6am on a Saturday. As a young professional working an ad agency job during the week, I looked forward to sleeping in on day like this one. The more ambitious (and decidedly better) part of myself demanded that I get up and get ready for a day of hardhats, power tools and solar panels. I had no idea what to really expect…I’d signed up on a whim and had done my best to fundraise for the task at hand. All I needed to do now was show up.
My initial exposure and eventual participation with GRID Alternatives wasn’t a complicated process. As a relatively new California resident post eight years of living in Chicago, I often felt as if I was wiping a film off my eyes when I heard about or discussed the environment here. Though it’s no excuse, it’s easy to possess a level of ignorance when you live in a concrete jungle and “sustainability” is often discussed simplistically on the individual (Recycle! Light bulbs!) or corporate (Starbucks Fair Trade! Tom’s Shoes!) level.
But then along came a move to California and with it a barrage of material, people and causes that appeared entirely devoted to the betterment of our environment and thus, our world. The beauty of the beaches was stunning, the hiking trails enthralling and the overall green mindset out here truly, truly impressive. And everywhere there was a buzz about renewable energy technology and implementation. I wanted to know more and I was excited to get involved somehow. A quick Google search brought up a slew of environmental groups and non-profits, but GRID stood out from the get-go. The beautiful simplicity of its business model and obvious success in local California communities were indicators of an organization that was truly impactful and really knew its stuff. After an exceedingly well-run informational session, I put my name on the Solarthon sign-up sheet and went home to draft my fundraising email.
Solarthon San Diego was held in National City and started off with coffee, speeches and splitting the participants into teams. It was great to see such an eclectic and diverse assortment of people out there, ready to climb on roofs and give the gift of solar to some very deserving families. Corporate groups, construction workers looking to gain new skills, GRID employees and interested individuals such as myself were all there, ready and eager to embark on a project that would give back to the grid and benefit the local community. I was fortunate enough to be on the Women’s Build Team and had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly smart, passionate and savvy females.
I admit it…Solarthon was my first build. As someone with limited construction knowledge, it was somewhat challenging to work with the solar panels and ensure they were installed properly. Thank goodness for our team leaders – their never-ending patience and gentle instruction made for a morning of learning, collaboration and yes…fun. I never once felt like I couldn’t participate due to my utter lack of a skill set and I have to say…there’s something that feels pretty badass about being up on a roof with a wrench and seeing your work slowly come to fruition. To anyone who sits behind a desk for most of the workday, it’s an experience I highly, highly recommend.
Once the install was complete, we all stood to watch the homeowner we’d worked with switch on her meter. I’d heard that seeing the device start to wind backwards was a special moment, but nothing prepared me for the sheer joy I saw in her face when it happened. To witness the immediate impact our work was having on her life was moving, and knowing that it was contributing to a larger movement towards sustainability made it even better.
Solarthon San Diego 2012 brought solar energy to an entire block of homes in the course of a day and simultaneously added to a small (but mighty!) army of renewable energy advocates. Am I glad I got up to that 6am alarm so I could experience it? You bet. Do I plan on using that day to influence my future career trajectory and hopefully convert friends and contacts into fellow clean energy believers? Absolutely.
GRID positions itself as an organization committed to bringing solar to low-income communities and, in turn, training a new renewable energy workforce. I don’t know if they’ll want to somehow incorporate “educating and inspiring millenials” into their mission statement, but if they do I’d be more than happy to vouch for this addition.
My generation is oftentimes discussed in the context of the recent economic downturn. We’re supposedly worse off than our parents in terms of income, job opportunities and even lifespan. Yet I see an incredible amount of social responsibility and a strong desire to work for the public good in us millenials. An organization such as GRID, with its incredibly bright and ambitious founders, effective business model and involvement in local communities, is a great platform to do it from. As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up”. I’d encourage anyone remotely interested to “just show up” at an upcoming GRID informational session and think about getting involved in next year’s Solarthon. Trust me…it doesn’t take much to become part of something much greater than yourself, and the rewards you’ll reap will be more than worthwhile.
Jose the Fighter
By GRID Alternatives Outreach Coordinator Evelyn Blanco
As Outreach Coordinators we meet different families who are amazing in their own unique way. There are some families that inspire us with their life story or by the way they just are. Our featured story is of Jose Damian, a cancer survivor, one of our amazing homeowners who is full of life and determination to make the best out of what life has given him.
Jose is a father of eight and has 11 loving grandchildren. He is a caring father who makes sure his family has everything they need. He values his family greatly and makes sure they all stay connect even after his children have moved away and started their own families. This is evident by the stories he shared and by the mosaic of family pictures that hang on the walls of his living room. Jose is also a fighter who has won one battle with cancer and is once again taking on another battle. Jose said, “We will survive this small obstacle” as he addressed his current new cancer battle.
Jose and his wife Antonia live in their solarized home in City Heights. The Damian family is “thankful for everything and they will never forget”. The savings from their system will be helping them pay the home, water and other bills.
From Volunteer to Dream Job
Hector Villegas was unemployed and although he had a desire to work in the green energy field, he lacked the necessary skills to land a job. That all changed when he became a volunteer with GRID Alternatives and gained the knowledge and experience he needed to land his dream job.
Hector heard about GRID Alternatives and knew it was just what he needed to receive essential training for his dream job. After volunteering on several installations, Hector had the skills that helped him land a job with a local solar contractor.
While volunteering for GRID, Hector suggested his mother apply to GRID Alternatives to determine if she qualified to have solar installed on her home in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego. Hector’s mother was approved and GRID installed solar on her home in August. This installation was the kick off the "50.8.12 Initiative", a campaign that helps identify residents in District 8 who may qualify for GRID's solar program. Hector was there as part of GRID’s volunteer construction team.
Hector is now able to offer his family a better future and his mother is able to take advantage of the savings her solar system provides each month.