Solar is right up there in the climate change solutions conversation and it is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or affordable to install. Quite the contrary. It can be complicated to figure out what kind of solar system you should get, let alone how much you should pay for it. Many people, especially those on low and fixed incomes, look at the complex decisions involved and the impact these decisions could have on their pocketbook and simply say, “No thanks.”
Some communities have creating “solar co-ops” to help homeowners, primarily in middle class neighborhoods, go solar. GRID Alternatives has developed a different approach. They’re a non-profit organization that brings solar to communities that would not otherwise have access, providing needed savings for families while training people for jobs in the solar industry — reducing dependence on the fossil fuels that cause climate change and pollute the air.
The group’s core initiative is called the Solar Affordable Housing Program. It provides low-to-no cost solar electric systems to families that qualify as low income (having a household income that is 80% of the Area Median Income or below). Once a homeowner’s application is approved, GRID Alternatives schedules a construction visit to determine if the roof, sunlight exposure, and house direction are suitable for photovoltaics, the solar cells that capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. If the home site is appropriate and the owner decides to proceed, GRID Alternatives designs a system specifically for that home.
Installation is done either by GRID Alternatives’ in-house team and a group of volunteers or job trainees, or with a qualified subcontractor. Once the system is installed, it is inspected and connected to the utility grid before it becomes operational. People start saving money immediately, then enjoy protection from rising electricity prices thereon out.
Another GRID Alternatives program focuses specifically on training women to enter the solar industry and support them in their professional advancement.
“Solar jobs are growing by 20% a year, and women’s voices, talents and leadership are needed more than ever to build a strong and sustainable industry,” says the organization about its “National Women in Solar Initiative.”
Women are encouraged to learn the ropes by volunteering; to become a Team Leader; and to participate in “We Build” events, where only women do the installation of a solar system.
GRID Alternatives launched in California, but it also works in the Rockies, the Mid-Atlantic, the New York Tri-State area, and Nicaragua. You can get more information here. And for helpful tips on how you can save energy, start here.