Bridging the Opportunity Divide

When Low-Income People Can’t Afford Solar Energy, This Organization Helps Out

October 29, 2014
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When Low-Income People Can’t Afford Solar Energy, This Organization Helps Out
Solar energy
A GRID Alternatives team installs solar panels in San Francisco. Courtesy GRID Alternatives
Lower energy bills aren't the only thing gained by these solar users.

What nonprofit asks low-income people to don hard hats and safety harnesses and scramble up on roofs?

GRID Alternatives does.

The organization not only provides solar energy to low-income neighborhoods, it also teaches residents how to install the panels themselves — helping them gain experience for potential jobs in the solar industry.

Low-income people are more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods, and they definitely can use the break on energy bills that solar panels provide — but most can’t afford to have them installed. That’s where GRID Alternatives steps in. According to the nonprofit’s website, its solar installation efforts have prevented “the release of 340,000 tons of greenhouse gasses over the systems’ lifetimes and provid[ed] more than $110 million in energy cost savings.”

One hundred and fifty volunteers turned up recently to help install solar panels on 10 Habitat for Humanity homes in a low-income Washington D.C. neighborhood, according to Katherine Ling of E&E. The installation celebrated the grand opening of the Oakland-based nonprofit’s D.C. office, which joins branches in California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

The D.C. installation event also gave 10 “solar trainees” from a local organization for at-risk youth the chance to gain some valuable job skills and learn about an industry that might eventually provide them with a career.

GRID Alternatives has been able to expand its mission recently due to a $2 million grant from Wells Fargo, as well as equipment donations from Enphase Energy Inc., Sun Edison LLC and SunPower Corp.

The group also sponsors SolarCorps Fellowships, a one-year volunteer training period that qualifies participants for employment in the solar industry. The nonprofit is especially interested in providing jobs to low-income people, minorities and women. To that end, it hosts “women builds” as a part of its National Women in Solar initiative.

Ling visited a woman-only solar installation project in Los Angeles, where SolarCorps construction fellow Ilana Feingold declared, “We love power tools!”

We’re sure they love the energy savings and the jobs that come along with it, too.

MORE: For Those Most In Need of Low Utility Bills, There’s Solar Energy
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