Students help former Marine go solar for Veteran's Day


December 04, 2012

GRID’s Bay Area office honored Veteran’s Day 2012 with a very special solar installation: a team of students from Laney Green Jobs, including several veterans, worked all weekend to complete a solar system on the home of a fellow veteran in Richmond’s Iron Triangle. The system is expected to save Mr. Avila, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and now lives on a fixed income, over $22,500 in energy costs over the lifetime of the system.

“This has been so great,” said Mr. Avila, as he watched the crew working. “So many people have helped. And it’s Veteran’s Day – I love that we’re doing this today.”

In addition to facilitating needed savings for Mr. Avila, the students will gain hands-on training experience with solar installation, helping prepare them for jobs in the growing green economy. Explained Saul Carangelo, one of the Laney students on the job site, “It’s inspiring to be out in the field, seeing each bit as it actually fits into the whole. You need both the classroom and hands-on experience to really see the full picture.”

The vets in the program – an intensive Solar PV course at Laney College – are supported by a local solar company, Solar City, through non-profit Swords to Plowshares, which offers comprehensive services and programs to ease veterans’ transition to civilian life. Solar City will help graduating vets find jobs in the industry. David Ho, who served in the Navy’s construction battalion, spoke with passion about his future goals.

“I enlisted to learn skills and do some good,” said Ho. “Now I’m doing the same thing through solar – this technology can really help make the Earth better.”

For all on site, the spotlight was not just on the veterans, but also on the collaboration of so many partner organizations coming together on the roof. “This installation is a lasting, and active, symbol of the collaborative purpose of all our organizations' work – to nourish greater social, economic, and environmental justice for our community,” shared Katherine Bergman, who leads the Green Technology Education program at Laney College.

GRID is grateful to have been a part of the lasting impacts of the installation and broader parternships. As Mr. Avila told the assembled student volunteers after the completion of his solar system, “Thank you all. Thank you so much.”

Check out the photos from the day here, and a great piece posted by the Richmond Confidential about the install here.