During the past weekend a team of CleanTechies made up of our staff members, friends and blog readers like yourself put our “Think Globally, Act Locally” philosophy into practice during Solarthon 2009. Our team of 15 people spent a partially rain-soaked Saturday to install a solar electric system on a low-income home in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood located in Oakland, California. The team was organized by CleanTechies over the last month and its members were given the goal of raising almost $5,000 for the privilege of taking part in the event. All this effort was to support the ongoing efforts of a company we’ve raved about many times; GRID Alternatives.
GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization making solar electric systems a reality for low-income homeowners who otherwise could not afford the systems. GRID does this through an innovative business model where they train volunteers to do everything from designing a system on a sheet of paper to mounting the final panel on a roof. With drastically reduced labor costs, a team of 10-15 volunteers can work slowly and steadily under the guidance of a GRID employee to deliver a complete system at almost half the cost of a typical solar system.
Solarthon 2009 was GRID Alternatives largest fundraiser of the year and their biggest event ever! Over the course of one day, three hundred volunteers, each of whom raised at least $250, got their hands dirty by installing solar electric systems on 16 homes in a Habitat for Humanity community which, when completed, will have 56 units. In total more than $100,000 was raised and we are proud to say that a founding member of CleanTechies, Ian Thomson, had the second largest amount of donations.
Our team sponsored one of the homes and worked alongside two volunteer solar professionals who gave us direction and made sure the work was done to professional standards. The future homeowner joined us also and worked on everything from mounting the inverter to bending conduit to running the wiring and clamping down the panels. She couldn’t have been more thrilled with the fanfare and excitement generated by the event and no doubt she was equally happy to know that her electric bills will be drastically reduced for the next several generations.
The system we installed was made up of an array of 9 solar panels. Each panel is rated at 230 watts meaning that the complete system (9 panels X 230 watts each) will generate 2.07Kilowatts (kw). This should support most or all of the energy needs of the homeowner since the home will also be outfitted with energy efficient appliances. Between solar, efficient appliances and proper energy efficiency measures, this home should have no problem receiving its LEED certification.
This event was a success for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it shows that even during tough economic times, there are many still willing to help one another and support the use of clean technologies to lower our carbon footprint. In fact, the systems installed during Solarthon 2009 will generate over $270,000 worth of clean, renewable power for low-income families over their lifespans while eliminating over 800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Reduced bills and less pollution? That is truly something to celebrate.
Some more pictures from the event: