By Hiren Trivedi, SunEdison Program Manager
Recently I volunteered with GRID Alternatives for a solar installation with a low income family in California. The event was full of high-energy fellow volunteers from SunEdison and GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization that makes solar technology accessible to low-income communities. Low income communities need the savings and jobs that solar can provide, yet frequently have the least access. By using solar as a real-world solution to poverty, air pollution, and low wage jobs, GRID Alternatives and SunEdison are helping make a difference in the lives of families across America and are setting the stage for large-scale solar adoption nationwide.
I had a remarkable experience being a part of something that helps change lives. Here are just a few of the benefits I experienced while volunteering on a solar installation project:
- Learn about solar and how solar works For anyone new to solar, the specific jargon around solar PV modules, solar arrays, inverters, net metering, and breaker boxes can be pretty daunting. When you volunteer on an installation project you get to work with knowledgeable installation engineers and they will help you understand these terms and concepts (while also having some fun!)..
- Get incredibly valuable hands-on experience Getting your hands dirty (and sometimes your clothes, too) is a great way to learn what it actually takes to install the solar panels. Getting your “boots on the roof” as they say can be a little intimidating at first, but getting out of your comfort zone is part of the learning. You’ll be making measurements, drilling holes, installing rack mounting systems, getting the solar panels on the roof, fixing them in place, learning about electrical wiring and connections, and even helping design the installation. Performing these activities along with the engineers, supervisors, and fellow crew members is not only a great team building exercise, but it also lets you gain a lot of practical skills in a short period of time, and in a safe way.
- Help a low income family save on their energy costs and become more energy independent
This is the third and most important benefit. It’s a really great feeling helping a family go solar. The family saves money on their electricity bill from that day forward and benefits hugely from these savings. At the end of the project, seeing the meter start running backwards is so gratifying. Plus, there’s just nothing quite like the feeling of working toward accomplishing a common goal for a common good. Yes, the tangible benefits are great, but the intangible benefits like pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment are equally worthwhile reasons to serve. When we share our time and talents, we can solve problems, strengthen communities, and transform lives — transforming our own lives in the process.
For more information, and volunteering opportunities in your area, you can visit GRID Alternatives.