February 1, 2018
By Heather Shelton, email@example.com
GRID Alternatives installed a 2.7 kW solar PV system on April Walton’s rooftop a few weeks back. The system is expected to save Walton a projected $30,000 over the system’s lifetime.heather shelton — the times-standard
April Walton of Blue Lake has long been interested in solar power, but figured she couldn’t afford to get a system in place at her home.
When Walton heard of the San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives — which has a Solar Affordable Housing Program that makes solar power accessible to low-income families and individuals — she began to see her dream come to light.
“I was on the Internet and there’s so much happening in solar. I just wanted to see what was going on right now,” said Walton, adding, “I knew I could never afford it, but I like to keep current on what’s happening, so I typed in ‘low-income solar’ and GRID Alternatives came up — and that really piqued my interest.”
According to the GRID Alternatives website — www.gridalternatives.org — the organization was founded during the 2001 California energy crisis by Erica Mackie and Tim Sears, two engineering professionals who were working on large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the private sector. The vision that drove them was simple.
“At GRID Alternatives, we believe that a successful transition to clean, renewable energy needs to include everyone,” said Maggie Graham, program manager for the group’s North Coast Office, which is based in Willits and serves Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt counties.
“Here on the North Coast,” Graham said, “we install solar PV (photovoltaic) systems for income-qualified families living in affordable housing zones. These systems are largely funded by the California SASH Program (Single-family Affordable Solar Homes), making the systems low-to-no cost for homeowners.”
While GRID Alternatives is based out of Oakland, it also has regional offices and affiliates serving all of California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware — and beyond.
“We are working across the United States and in Nicaragua to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities,” Graham said.
The solar systems are installed by GRID staff, along with community partners, volunteers and job trainees, who gain hands-on solar installation experience while putting the new setups in place.
“We provide multiple solar job training opportunities for community members interested in solar PV installation,” Graham said.
Walton first contacted GRID Alternatives about her interest in the program in January. After discussing her qualifications over the phone with GRID staff, she attended an application meeting, where she learned more about the program.
“We then (did) a site visit to assess the solar suitability of her home in February, recruited volunteers and installed the system a couple weeks ago,” Graham said.
The GRID Alternatives team put in a 2.7 kW solar PV system on Walton’s rooftop, Graham said. The whole process took under two days.
“This solar system will save April a projected $30,000 over the system’s lifetime,” Graham said. “This will divert over 60 tons of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent of taking 12 cars off the road for a year or planting 1,448 trees.”
GRID Alternatives does an average of one to two installations per month in Humboldt, said Graham. To date, the organization has completed 39 projects in the county. Its next local installations are set for this coming week in McKinleyville and in early June in Arcata.
Though Walton found out about GRID Alternatives via the Internet, many North Coast folks are connected with the group through the Redwood Community Action Agency, Jefferson Community Center or through local first-time homebuyer programs.
“It just knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe they were providing this for low-income families and people,” Walton said. “In this area, I think there are so many people that care about the planet and we want to do what we can.”
Community members interested in seeing if they qualify for a solar system through GRID Alternatives should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-921-4696. People interested in volunteering and learning about solar PV installation can contact Maggie Graham at email@example.com, or visit the organization’s website at www.gridalternatives.org.
How do RCAA's programs impact you?
- Natural Resouces Services (NRS) works directly with Humboldt County community leaders, schools and parents to improve safety and encourage more children to safely walk and bicycle to school. NRS helps coordinate both the Greater Eureka and Humboldt County Safe Routes to School Task Forces.
- Teaching preschoolers oral health care is a result of the TOOTH program.
- Natural Resources Services works with community members, civic groups and local jurisdictions to enhance neighborhood street tree planting and support the development of community forests for public access and watershed protection.