While many college students are celebrating spring break on beaches or visiting their folks or doing some amazing, fun things Grid Alternatives is hosting its own spring break program, installing solar power on 17 low-income houses in Colorado and California between Feb. 29 and March 25. Under its Solar Spring Break program more than 100 college students from 10 higher education institutions are getting hands-on experience with solar installations while helping people out.
The nonprofit is focussed on expanding solar power to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it, low-income homeowners. It’s also working to increase the diversity in solar installers.
It’s the third year that Grid Alternatives has hosted the program and it’s grown from just six schools and teams when it launched in 2014 to 10 schools and 11 teams this year. Each team has to raise $5,000, which covers the cost of each teams’ solar project, five days of programming and lodging. The program includes tours of project sites, renewable energy industry tours and neighborhood outreach, the organization said.
The results of the program have proven invaluable to students that may otherwise not have a chance to see firsthand how to install solar panels and complete a system. “The Grid staff taught us more in two days than we had learned in months at school,” said Abhishek Rao, a graduate student at Arizona State University who participated in 2015.
“We put into practice all we had studied from textbooks about residential solar systems, from surveying the site, to using tools to determine shading, designing the system, and actually installing it with our own hands. Solar Spring Break definitely added a much-needed real-world perspective to my experience studying solar energy engineering at school,” Rao said.
Teams of 10-12 students from each school will travel to different project sites around the country and spend the week on a combination of solar installations, renewable energy industry tours, and neighborhood outreach.
North Carolina Central University, a historically black university, will install solar on the home of a Sacramento family. Grid Alternatives said the trip will be some of the students’ first trip outside of North Carolina. It also helps those students meet graduation requirements.
“North Carolina Central prides itself on requiring undergraduate students to provide service to the community as a pre-requisite for graduation,” said Chris McGinn, North Carolina Central assistant professor and chaperone for the team. “I look forward to using this trip as a catalyst to develop the students’ understanding of the social and political ramifications solar power and clean energy can have on a community.” The team will install the project from March 14 through March 18.
In all, 3 teams are coming from North Carolina this year. The University of Michigan is fielding two teams and installed the first systems under the program this year. They installed solar for three tribal families on the La Jolla Indian Reservation near San Diego.
Grid Alternatives has a list of teams and projects here: http://www.gridalternatives.org/programs/solar-breakTweet