One House at a Time: NAACP Solar Installation in Baltimore


April 26, 2017

NAACP volunteers, GRID staff, and homeowner Wade Watkins

NAACP volunteers, GRID staff, and homeowner Wade Watkins gather by a GRID banner
NAACP volunteers, GRID staff, and homeowner Wade Watkins

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) volunteers joined GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic staff for a 3.4 kW solar installation on Baltimore homeowner Wade Watkins’ home. Watkins shared his excitement for the install with his family, letting his niece in on the experience, too. “I passed the solar design layout GRID gave me to my niece. She showed it to her teacher and now she wants to make her science fair project around solar,” Watkins says. 

Five NAACP volunteers joined the installation. This volunteer workday was unique in that many of the volunteers are already advocates of both solar and social justice. Mike Alksnis is a fellow in NAACP’s environmental and climate justice program, and a first-time GRID volunteer. Mike explains, “In our program, we are all about clean and renewable energy, so to actually to get out here, do the work and see how it is done, is a nice break from the office.” 

While overcoming fear of heights to get on the roof was one of the hurdles of the day, NAACP workday volunteers were also able to address another challenge during their experience: the issues of energy access. A handful of the NAACP workday volunteers, Marcus Franklin, Mike Alksnis, and Chiquita Younger, recently authored a research report released earlier this month to establish a universal right to uninterrupted energy service. The report introduces policies and practices to ensure disadvantaged people are not threatened by unexpected electricity charges and shutdowns. 

Three NAACP volunteers us an impact drill
Mike, Marcus, and Katrina from the NAACP join GRID on the roof
Homeowners like Watkins in the Mid-Atlantic region face some of the highest average cost for energy according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For instance, the U.S. average retail price for electricity is 10.41 cents per kilowatt-hour, while Maryland is 12.01. Based on NAACP’s data, low-income Americans already contribute a greater portion of their household income on energy costs, which increases the likelihood of falling behind on their bills resulting in shutoffs in their electricity. Access to clean power and distributed generation, like rooftop solar, offsets the energy cost burden. One aspect of GRID’s mission, providing solar power to underserved communities, increases resilience in the Mid-Atlantic area for homeowners like Watkins. Watkins’ solar will help him save nearly $700 annually - which makes a big difference for families keeping up with their electricity costs.  


GRID Alternatives provides solar power for underserved communities while providing hands-on installation experience for job seekers and community volunteers. GRID was delighted to spend the day with NAACP staff who support universal clean energy access!  

See more pictures of the installation here.