Solarthons charge up California Communites


June 26, 2012

In April it was Madera, a small agricultural community outside of Fresno; in May, San Jacinto; in June, National City, San Diego’s unassuming neighbor, and East San Jose in July. All over California, entire working–class neighborhoods are going solar through GRID Alternatives’ “Solarthons.” During these one-day events, hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life join low-income homeowners to install solar electric systems on multiple homes in one neighborhood in one day, while raising money and awareness for GRID Alternatives’ work.

“It is a special moment,” said homeowner Bunting Smith (above with family in green) at the GRID Alternatives Inland Empire Solarthon in San Jacinto. Bunting and his wife are immigrants from Africa, and have two children together. Their daughter recently turned 14, and they hope to use the savings from their system to start a college fund for her.

“I can’t say how much I appreciate it, we are so grateful. Wow, look at our faces today. Everybody, even my dad and mom, came to celebrate with us. It’s all great. Thank you so much.”

Like the time-honored walkathon, individual participants ask family, friends and networks for a pledge to sponsor their work on a home. Businesses like Schneider Electric, Real Goods Solar and Wells Fargo sponsor houses for employee volunteers. And our solar industry partners Yingli Solar and SunPower sponsor job trainees to come get hands-on experience and network with local installers.

At the National City Solarthon, homeowner Rosalva Rodriquez was up on the roof with a crew of women – the Solarthon Women’s Build – installing a system on her own home. She is no stranger to community work. Her husband Miguel works two jobs, so it was Rosalva, a stay-at-home mother, who put in the majority of the 500 hour of sweat equity required to help build their Habitat for Humanity development. Other Solarthon homeowners prepare food for the volunteers, help with set-up and clean-up, or keep participants hydrated throughout the day.

Solarthon events embody what GRID Alternatives is all about: community, volunteerism, clean energy solutions for all, and having fun while we work!