From Smokestacks to Solar: Generations in the Bayview


March 20, 2015

San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, named for the sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay from its hilltop perch, was once one of the city’s most polluted. Today, with 130 GRID Alternatives solar electric systems producing clean power for residents, it is a showcase for the success of the city and state’s investment in low-income solar.  Mr. Herman Stewart counts himself among the lucky. He moved into this two-story, periwinkle home as a child nearly 60 years. As time lapsed, he became a metal worker, then a father and then a grandfather inside of this home. From his deck, he can see an old smokestack, a reminder of the booming shipyard and heavy industry that was once both the economic engine and environmental scourge of the area. Today, when you climb up the old stairs and look out, you can see solar, too.  

It was a perfect, sunny March Friday when volunteers from SunPower Corp., a long-time GRID Alternatives supporter and major equipment partner, came out to help install solar on Mr. Stewart’s home. Many of them were first timers with GRID, and they showed up eager to start work.  “I am really happy SunPower donates to this,” said Etai Weininger, Program Manager at SunPower, as he climbed the ladder. “It makes me feel really good.”

A couple of  hours later, the smell of a charcoal bbq filled the air as Mr. Stewart fired up the grill for lunch to feed the workers.  His two sons-in law came to help him prepare the meal and then his daughter and granddaughters came to be part of the celebration.  

Mr. Stewart’s only regret was that he couldn’t get on the roof himself. After working many long years as a metal smelter in South San Francisco, he now suffers from arthritis that affects his mobility and limits him to the small home improvement projects which are his hobby. But he made sure the crew took plenty of photos so he could see the finished system on the camera.

"He's really excited you all are here doing this for him," said his son in law, Tim. And it showed. Thanks to Mr. Stewart for being such a great host, and to the amazing SunPower volunteer team for their hard work in helping start a new chapter for Mr. Stewart’s home and his community.  For more pictures from the install, click here.