GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit that seeks to bring clean solar power to low-income people and provides training for those looking for jobs in the solar industry. Its slogan is: People. Planet. Employment. Its mission statement is emblazoned at the very top of its website: “GRID Alternatives’ vision is a successful transition to clean, renewable energy that includes everyone. Our mission is to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.”
With the help of the Abell Foundation and in partnership with the City of Baltimore Office of Sustainability and Civic Works, GRID Alternatives has begun bringing solar power to 10 homes in the CARE Community. CARE stands for “caring active restoring efforts.” The CARE Community is focused on revitalization by attracting more residents and investors to the neighborhood.
The GRID Alternatives program will help low-income residents climb the energy ladder by participating in the solar energy project. They will reap benefits through reduced electricity costs and by contributing to a cleaner environment.
The Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Baltimore Energy Challenge are providing cool roofs to the 10 homeowners through the Baltimore Energy Initiative. A cool roof is made of an elastomeric base coat combined with a reinforcing tensile fabric sealed with a white reflective coat. It reduces energy costs by 30% and can lead to even more savings if weatherization retrofits are included. The cool roof takes about three days to install and comes with up to a 10-year warranty.
Additionally, the Door Center, which is owned by the Baltimore Urban Leadership Foundation, has been identified as a critical community facility and will receive a solar electric system with battery backup. The Door’s mission is to facilitate the transformation and holistic growth of youth, families and communities through collaborative partnerships, direct services, capacity-building, and resource development.
GRID Alternatives will also partner with Civic Works, a job training organization, to provide job trainees with hands-on instruction on how to install cool roofs and solar panels. The training program covers weatherization and solar installation, and takes three months. It begins with classroom instruction, then two weeks of hands-on experience, followed by two months of further on-the-job training leading to full certification. The GRID Alternatives initiative will pave the way for solar installations throughout the city in years to come.
The job training program is designed to empower local residents. Here’s how Terrell Smith describes his experience: “I grew up and I saw violence around me, and being violent and in the streets was just never for me. For people my age, it’s most important to see the different job opportunities there are. Believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself the opportunities are limitless. There are so many different pathways in the world.”
Sometimes solar energy is about personal power as much as it is about electricity.
Many thanks to Silvio Marcacci of Marcacci Communications for his invaluable assistance with this story.