Last week, GRID Alternatives expanded to Washington, DC — “not with a whisper, but with a bang,” in the words of Adrianne Todman, Executive Director for the D.C. Housing Authority.
The country’s largest nonprofit solar installer initiated its mid-Atlantic presence with a neighborhood project to install solar energy systems on 10 Habitat for Humanity of Washington D.C. homes.
U.S. government agency and White House officials were on hand in the economically challenged Ivy City neighborhood in Northeast Washington. They joined volunteers, job trainees, and community partners who were there to install solar panels on the Habitat homes. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who spoke at the event, even joined volunteers on the roof.
GRID’s expansion into the DC area comes at a time of tremendous growth for the solar industry and amid ongoing state and federal policy discussions about how to make solar more accessible to underserved communities.
“Communities like Ivy City are critical to the success of our nation’s clean energy transition,” said Erica Mackie, GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO. “Not only are they seeing the benefits of lower electricity bills and job opportunities, but they are also contributing to one of the most important causes of our time. If we’re going to do this on a national level, we need proactive policies that support access to clean, renewable and affordable energy for all of our communities.”
GRID does more than just help low-income families go solar. The organization also provides training in one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.
“While we all must do our part as individuals to conserve energy and help preserve our environment, we can do more through partnership, especially when addressing needs in historically underserved communities,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “The job training that GRID offers represents a tremendous economic opportunity for low-income residents who want to learn about the solar business and work in a field where their skill is in high demand.”
“We’re thrilled to be working with GRID Alternatives to make our homes in Ivy City even greener,” said Susanne Slater, Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC’s President and CEO. “We’re committed to using solar energy and other technologies that reduce energy consumption and lower the cost of home ownership for the families we serve.”
“I’m very excited about going solar,” said homeowner Kiona Mack. “The savings will help me get what I need for my kids, but it’s also about taking advantage of the sun and creating energy.”
A single mother of two, Mack has an Associate’s degree in accounting and works in project management, but hopes to go back to school to complete her Bachelor’s degree. Her 2.1 kW system will save her around $30 per month in electricity costs.
GRID Alternatives’ 10-home project in Ivy City is supported by a $2 million expansion grant from Wells Fargo and major philanthropic donations from solar manufacturers SunEdison, SunPower, and Enphase. In addition to donating equipment for the builds, SunEdison’s participation included some employees participating in two of the community project’s installations — one of which was an all-female build team that was part of the National Women in Solar Initiative, a joint effort to get more women involved in solar.
“SunEdison and GRID Alternatives share a core mission of making solar energy accessible to people in every kind of community,” said Polly Shaw, vice president, government affairs at SunEdison. “Our participation in today’s event not only brings solar energy to underserved communities but also demonstrates our commitment to increasing the number of women in the solar industry. SunEdison is honored to continue partnering with GRID Alternatives and support the industry’s continued growth.”
This is the second GRID Alternatives event that SunEdison has sponsored and participated in this month. In early September, SunEdison employee volunteers filled an all-female team at GRID’s Bay Area Solarthon, where eight low-income families received solar electric systems on their homes.
“Our partnership with SunEdison is not only helping us serve more families, but also inspiring women across the country to get involved in this growing industry,” said Mackie. “We’re excited to have SunEdison join us as we launch into a new market.”