Troops to Solar Build serves Virginia Veteran

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September 26, 2016

Brian Haas and his service dog, Buddy

Brian Haas and his service dog, Buddy
Brian Haas and his service dog, Buddy

GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic recently hosted its first Troops to Solar build in Virginia! GRID Alternatives and HeroHomes teamed up to save money for a veteran family with equipment and system design donated by Standard Solar. The installation was completed by veteran and active duty military job trainees, as part of GRID’s Troops to Solar initiative, supported by Wells Fargo.

The solar panels were installed on the home of Brian Haas, a disabled army helicopter pilot who currently lives in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. HeroHomes, a nonprofit that builds houses for veterans, built Brian's brand new home. When asked about his new solar system, Brian said, “Solar is new to me. It's amazing learning about how it works.” The panels will save Mr. Haas an estimated $25,525 over the course of the system’s lifetime which will be about 80% of his monthly electricity bills. Brian is excited to move out Walter Reed at the end of November, and settle into his new home in Purcellville, VA with his wife, Jolyne, and his service dog, Buddy.

Troops to Solar is a job training program supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation that provides hands-on training and job connections to over 1,000 U.S. military veterans and active service members across the country. While the veterans learn and apply their skills, they also help families in need, including veterans like Mr. Haas, live more affordably in their homes. One veteran, Jim, drove four hours the night before in order to work on this installation. “I wouldn’t have missed this; I got to help out a fellow veteran and also see what GRID Alternatives does to help veterans,” said Jim.

Sailors with the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions
Sailors with the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions
Four active-duty sailors from the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD), also received job training on this installation. Their favorite part of the installation was getting on the roof and working with their hands. One job trainee, in particular, plans to take his new knowledge about installing solar panels back home to Illinois to “install solar panels everywhere and help the planet.”

The partnership between GRID Alternatives, Standard Solar, and HeroHomes was celebrated at the solar installation with a brief speaking event.  Jason Brownell from HeroHomes spoke on the importance of serving our country’s veterans. The CEO of Standard Solar, Scott Wiater, is a retired helicopter pilot himself. He spoke of how proud he was to help a fellow veteran, and that Standard Solar jumped on the chance to donate equipment for this installation.

Dave Stegmaier, the Director of Outreach for Congresswoman Comstock, read a statement from the Congresswoman. “These three organizations provide innovative leadership, providing a house which is the foundation of a new life for Brian Haas, his wife Jolyne, and his service dog, Buddy.” Other speakers included Nicole Steele, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, Bob Lazaro, former Mayor of Purcellville, Kwasi Fraser, current Mayor of Purcellville, and Brian Haas. Brian Haas was honored and grateful for the new house with solar. He was thrilled to have the solar installation done by fellow veterans and active military. To the active troops who assisted with the install, Mr. Hass advised them to “take the torch and run with it.” After the speakers, everyone enjoyed lunch donated by local restaurant in Leesburg, Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar. Even though the house was still under construction, it started to feel more like a home. That is exactly what HeroHomes, GRID Alternatives, and Standard Solar want to provide Brian Haas and his family; a new home and a new life. As the Mayor, Kwasi Fraser said, “The town of Purcellville welcomes Brian home.”

See pictures from the event here.

See HeroHomes' write-up on the project.