Marla A. Matime | Contributor
GRID Alternatives is the nation’s largest community-based nonprofit solar installer that makes renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.
Now having served over 1750 homeowners, GRID continues to make leaps and bounds in the solar industry saving homeowners approximately $56 million over a lifetime.
A recent install took place in San Bernardino on July 31st at the home of Linda Catalan, a mother of four and medical assistant, who recently purchased her property through the Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services (NPHS) program. By having GRID come to install solar panels, she is expected to save up to 75% on her energy bill.
Natasha Ferguson, marketing communications specialist, explains that individuals interested in volunteering have an opportunity to learn installation through their programs such as Women in Solar, that provides free training and step by step assistance while on site.
GRID Alternatives Team of Volunteers and Specialists
People, then, have the flexibility and opportunity to apply for positions in the field of solar, to work and provide for themselves and their families. Natasha is passionate about getting the word out on what GRID has to offer because helping families is a top priority for the organization.
Families who qualify are primarily at or below the poverty line and reside in low income neighborhoods, where the cost of living are still unattainable for some but owning a home may be the only asset that they have. Natasha further stated, “[F]amilies who benefit from the program, share the savings to their neighbors because they spread the word or provide that energy on the grid which can serve their community.”
Founders Erica Mackey and Tim Sears had a vision to provide no cost solar to families in need, which is how GRID Alternatives was born as a nonprofit. GRID receives grants on the state and federal level, and some funding through the three major energy companies in California, which further emphasizes why going solar is so important in our communities.
GRID educates on what is called “energy vampires,” which are electronic devices that we keep plugged in and they run constantly. To help facilitate savings Kate Thibault, GRID Development Officer of GRID, explained that homeowners, and even renters, should keep these devices plugged into a surge protector and switch the protector off when these devices are not in use, or simply unplug them. Also, unplugging your phone and tablet chargers while not charging these devices is cost effective. She further explained making minor changes, such as swapping out traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs, are extremely helpful in conserving energy, saving hundreds each month on your bill.
During an installation, homeowners are only asked to provide lunch for the volunteers that are conducting the work, which provides a sense of community. They get to interact with volunteers and understand that it takes community to build community.
Vanessa Lorrah, commercial project manager, and Lisa Castilone, community development and Tribal Program Manager, discussed how multifamily units can also benefit from providing solar to its residents. Property owners must provide low income housing in 20 percent or 5 or more units of their multifamily property to qualify for GRID ‘s solar program. The units that are not designated as low income housing, are also going to benefit from the panels once installed since the community meets the qualification standards.
GRID has also had success—though the process is very long—with outreach to Native American tribes, Lisa explains. They are currently working on a project near Lake Havasu, with the Chemehuevi tribe and the Cahuilla tribe near the Salton Sea, where their community is impacted by air pollution, water contamination, and other environmental disparities.
“Most Native American Tribes in our region may not benefit from gaming income that provides funding per capita to its tribe members. Some tribes are completely disconnected from the advancement of current technology and economic growth that other tribes may benefit from.”
Currently, there are fourteen GRID offices across the country with seven in California. Internationally they have offices in Nicaragua, Nepal and Mexico. They are continuing to grow nationally and internationally.
To qualify, individuals must be homeowners, meet income level outlined in the guidelines, and live in a zone considered as low income. There are no credit checks and once qualified, there is absolutely no cost to the homeowner receiving the panels.
There are two ways to find out if you qualify to receive free solar on your home. That is by calling 951-465-2864 or visiting http://www.gridsolar.org.
Header Photo: Solar Installation Specialist Ernesto Rochester (r) Marketing Communications Specialist, Natasha Ferguson.