Established in 2001, GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that provides low income communities access to solar energy. GRID Alternatives was founded by two engineers who are driven to make clean energy accessible to the low-income communities that need solar energy the most. The people at GRID Alternatives are on a mission “to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training.”
In addition to helping families produce their own solar energy, GRID Alternatives provides a unique educational experience for its volunteers. Unemployed and underemployed individuals from the community are encouraged to cultivate a valuable skill-set through volunteer and team leader programs.
By working on installations for the Solar Affordable Housing Program, volunteers get hands-on experience and networking opportunities that they couldn’t get anywhere else. Through GRID’s Team Leader program, volunteers have the opportunity to become certified PV installers with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. A GRID volunteer can use this real-world experience to get their foot in the door of businesses in the solar industry.
The unique environment created by GRID Alternatives draws in people from all walks of life. Environmental activists, students, engineers, and professionals in the solar industry are just some of the people that volunteer with this nonprofit organization. Everyone comes together to help the community, learn new skills, reduce CO2 emissions, and sweat bullets in the California sun.
I recently had the opportunity to go on a volunteer installation with GRID Alternatives. The mission was to install a 2.3 kW AC system for a low income home in Long Beach, California.
The first day of the installation began at 8:30 am on a overcast Tuesday morning. Shortly after the last volunteers arrived, we introduced ourselves and the project supervisor went over some basic safety precautions.
While the ground team was busy prepping and splicing the ProSolar rails, several of us got up on the roof to determine how the array could be configured in compliance with the regulations in the city of Long Beach. As the morning clouds burned off, we quickly realized that the sun would not spare us.
After taking measurements and marking the lay-out that was established by GRID team leaders, we drilled into the rafters where the ProSolar FastJack Stand-offs would soon be mounted.
Around each hole that was drilled, we cut a few inches of the surrounding roof to make room for the flashing. After bolting the base of the standoff with caulking and inserting the flashing under the top layer of the roof, we screwed in the ProSolar FastJack Stand-off. We then sealed a fitted washer over the flashing with caulking for extra protection from the rain. Setting up this racking solution was a long process, so every volunteer had their hands full.
Leif helps Christian cut the ProSolar rails to fit the lay-out of the system.
Once the ProSolar rails were spliced and cut accordingly, we fastened them onto the standoffs, completing our work for the day.
The family’s new 2.3 kW AC system is projected to produce more than 4,000 kWh every year, preventing 2.8 metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
Because of GRID Alternatives and the help of its volunteers, the monthly electricity bills for this family in Long Beach will be reduced by 85 percent.
GRID Alternatives has already installed photovoltaic systems for over 2,000 homes in California, and is dedicated to improving lives and helping the environment through these kinds of initiatives.
During my experience with GRID alternatives, I expanded my personal knowledge of solar installations and had a blast working with the other volunteers. I will highly recommend getting involved with GRID Alternatives to my friends and family. Anyone who is interested in solar energy, saving the environment, or helping their community should take advantage of the exceptional learning opportunity provided by GRID Alternatives.
I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.