Solar Spring Breaker to a Summer Fellow at GRID

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August 28, 2019

Alexis Thomspon was one of the Solar Spring Break (SSB) student leaders for the University of Michigan teams and is now doing an internship as the Clean Mobility Equity Research Fellow at GRID Alternatives. Read about her experience from the Solar Spring Break program and how it changed her perspective in solar and renewable energy.

How has your SSB experience help you get an internship with GRID?

My SSB leadership and trip experience has taught me the importance of having a voice in the energy sector. It has shown me that my story matters and that no matter what background I come from my perspective has value in helping fight climate change, and to address the many injustices that currently exist within policy. This has played a tremendous role in my current position as a Clean Mobility Equity Research Fellow at GRID because all the lessons I have learned while leading my SSB team have empowered me to serve in my current position. Doing academic research that intertwines engineering, environmental/social justice, and climate policy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career thus far. I truly believe that without my exposure to the SSB program I would be on a completely different and possibly less fulfilling career path today.

Has your perspective on solar and/or renewable energy changed since your Solar Spring Break experience(s)?

Before participating in the Solar Spring break program I knew very little about installing solar, workforce development and had almost no interest in climate policy. After leading my first SSB team back in 2018 to perform our first install with the La Jolla Tribe my views of solar were completely transformed. My team and I went from knowing very little about the energy industry or solar to the successful install of a 10 kW system on three homes, and raising $25,000 to make it all possible. This year my perspective changed, even more, when I led the first international SSB team to Nepal where we installed our first off-grid system. This experience was extremely life-changing because it was my first time traveling internationally and being fully immersed in another culture. Learning about the importance of ecotourism, biodiversity, international women's empowerment, and international climate policy was a priceless and invaluable experience that I will always cherish.

Describe your current internship.

Over the summer I have had the amazing opportunity to serve as a Clean Mobility Equity Research Fellow on the Lyft EV Pilot project. During this experience I have learned about climate policy within the transportation sector, how TNC operate, the important role that community partners such as the CHDC play in educating and empowering low income communities of color, and most importantly how to create a research study that keep equity at the forefront of such a unique project.

What are your plans/goals for the future?

In September, I will continue to complete my B.S in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business Management and a GIS Certificate at the University of Michigan. My future plans also consist of continuing to work closely with GRID and Solar Spring Break leadership team to expand our work to all three UMich campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint). This expansion will include evolving our SSB student chapter into a campus department known as MPact Solar, where we will educate both students and our local community about solar and other renewable energy technologies/applications. Along with building a sustainable foundation to fund and support hands-on learning projects such as our Solar Spring Break program.

Additionally, I will also serve as a Great Lakes Regional Fellow for Citizens Climate Lobby. In this role I will help to empower and educate students in my region about climate policy and advocacy work at the local, state, and federal level.

Solar Spring Break registration for 2019-2020 is now open and closes on November 15, 2019. Check out available dates and locations here. In addition, we will be having our Intercollegiate Team be hosted by our Greater Los Angeles office from March 2-6, 2020! If you know students who would like to join the Intercollegiate Team, check out for more details here. GRID Alternatives' Solar Spring Break is sponsered by Wells Fargo.