From Energy Conflicts to Energy Solutions

Share:

November 10, 2021
Nick Boateng stands in front of a "Homes4Families" sign, wearing a mask

Nick Boateng is the Outreach Manager for GRID’s Greater Los Angeles office. He is also a military veteran, who was on active duty for 8 years, 3 months, and 28 days. 

I enlisted in the military right out of high school. I had attended a Department of Defense high school in Germany, and having just graduated, I didn’t feel ready to face the expenses that would of course come with college. So I graduated in June and was in the military by August. It was straight from school, to boot camp in Lawton, Oklahoma. Talk about a culture shock! At my first duty station, I was assigned a peacekeeping mission in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, and then after I returned back to my unit, 9/11 happened. Everything changed. I was in Iraq in ‘03 and ‘04, in Kuwait and Qatar, then Afghanistan in ‘07 and ‘08. 

I became interested in renewable energy during my time in the military because I witnessed that conflict due to energy resources was one of the reasons we were involved, as a country, in the first place. I thought to myself, “there has to be a better alternative to all this conflict over energy.” The first time I really gave thought to solar, in particular, was during a blackout in Ghana in 2010. Most people have to run these loud generators whenever a blackout happens, but a friend that I was staying with happened to have solar panels on his house, and I was impressed by how quietly they worked. 

A group of 9 people pose in a photo wearing Troops to Solar shirts
Pre-pandemic photo: Nick Boateng, far left, poses with trainees on a Troops to Solar build
When I left the military, I worked for the US government under a special assignment with the agency for enterprise solutions which sent me back to Afghanistan. Afterwards, I ran a small business in the European Union moving consumer goods. I returned to the States towards the end of 2014 to pursue my interest in renewable energy. I enrolled in Solar PV and Energy efficiency classes at Santa Monica College and got my NABCEP Associates Certification. It was in my classes that I first learned about GRID Alternatives. I joined a GRID install at a house in Long Beach, and enjoyed it so much that I started to take classes at night so that I could volunteer with GRID during the day and volunteer with the Outreach teams. Then, I became an Outreach Fellow, during which I helped to develop the Troops for Solar initiative at the Greater Los Angeles (GLA) office. It was incredibly meaningful work for me, to be able to connect veterans to install teams who needed more hands on deck. In this role, I became the first veteran liaison. Helping to build the bridge between nonprofits and veterans in need of jobs, and supporting GRID’s own workforce development with the Troops to Solar program, allowed me to find meaningful work and continue to give to the veteran community that I am also a part of. I continued my work with GRID after that fellowship was over, and am now the Outreach Manager for the GLA office. Currently, I work alongside US Vets, a nonprofit with which I helped establish a partnership with GRID. 

Solar on a roof with five people standing behind it
Pre-pandemic photo: Troops to Solar trainees gain hands-on experience installing solar
This is the connection between my past and present, and allows me to serve. Service is what is known to service members, and providing them with opportunities to serve is essential to the transition out of the military into civilian life. Through my work at GRID, I am fighting a new fight -- a fight for an equitable transition to a world powered by renewable energy that benefits everyone. 

To read more stories and to learn more about the work that GRID does with veterans, click here.