First of its kind: Solarizing a Pinoleville Pomo Nation prototype home

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February 01, 2017

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Mendocino College student group at the Pinoleville Pomo Nation prototype home
Mendocino College students, GRID staff, and the homeowner celebrate a job well done.

Although it was almost the first day of fall, it certainly still felt like summer on the North Coast as volunteers helped provide clean energy for a member of Pinoleville Pomo Nation. Nine students from Mendocino College, along with their professor, Sandy Tanaka, came out to install the 20-panel PV solar system. The students are currently enrolled in an Intro to Photovoltaics class as part of Mendocino College's Sustainable Technology program.

Ranging in backgrounds and experience, they all had one thing in common: their eagerness and excitement to learn new skills. As part of their final project, the students will be designing a grid-tied system as well as an off-grid, back-up-battery system. This will include going through the permit process. This means they were able to gain useful information from the GRID Alternatives North Coast construction team that will stretch beyond the installation.

The 4.6 kW system is projected to produce $48,000 worth of electricity over the its lifetime. These savings will help the family even more now that they are providing a home for their newly adopted son. Additionally, the panels will divert over 100 tons of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent of taking 19 cars off the road for a year or planting 2,300 trees.

The home was designed and built through a collaboration between Pinoleville Pomo Nation, the Community Assessment of Renewable Energy & Sustainability, and UC Berkeley to create a culturally-inspired prototype dwelling. A variety of sustainable building techniques and materials were used during construction. Some of its features include: straw-bale walls, naturally-sourced plaster, grey-water irrigation, passive heating and cooling methods, and a rainwater harvesting system. Now that the home is solar-powered, the family is able to reduce their carbon footprint even further all while benefiting from the much-needed savings. That gave everyone a lot to celebrate!

To view more great photos from the installation day, visit the photo album here.