The quiet community of Rancho Moro Cojo lit up on June 22nd when GRID Alternatives Central Coast hosted its annual Solarthon fundraiser and block party. Around 100 peoplecommunity volunteers, corporate sponsor teams and solar job traineesshowed up at 8am to install solar electric systems for five deserving local families.
"I had heard about solar because my sister worked in a solar panel manufacturing plant," said homeowner Carmen Luz Camarena, whose family received a solar electric system during the event. "But I never thought we would be able to have it. Its just incredible the savings this energy from the sun will create in our budget."
She and the other Solarthon families will save approximately 75 percent on their electricity bills from day one, money they can use for food, clothing and other necessities, and the systems will prevent 400 tons of carbon emissions over their expected 30-year lifespan. Todays installations brought to 71 the total number of systems installed by GRID in this affordable housing development since 2010.
"Its been an incredible community effort getting solar on these homes," said Steve Fernandez, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives Central Coast office, which hosted the event. "From job trainees getting hands-on experience to our corporate sponsors to our homeowners, everyone pitches in."
Serena Bruce is one of those who got valuable work experience up on the roof Saturday. A PG&E Solar Intern for GRID Alternatives Central Coast, she is spending a year learning the ins and outs of solar installation and leading other job trainees on the roof.
"This is the kind of experience you can't get in the classroom," she said, "and its so rewarding to be out here teaching people skills and supporting a community."
Many local community leaders were on site as well to celebrate the installation of these systems, including Monterey County District Supervisors Louis Calcagno and Simon Salinas. Many commended the work of the homeowners, who each put in 1400 hours of sweat equity as a down-payment on their homes.
"The program that you're sponsoring and working with today is a program that not only is doing job training," said Monterey County 2nd District Supervisor Louis Calcagno, "but is helping in this community. Putting solar up is going one step further to help them become even more self-dependent."
In addition to the sea of solar being put up an Electric Car Show was taking place, hosted by the Electric Auto Association of the Central Coast and the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Association. Solarthon participants and neighborhood passersby got a chance to check out cars like a Tesla Roadster, THINK City and even test drive a Toyota RAV4 EV and Chevy Volt.
Event sponsors included: SunPower Corp.; Wells Fargo; Yingli Solar; Schneider Electric; Enphase Energy; Jinko Solar; Suntech; Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Hartnell College; Solex/Applied Solar Energy; SnapNRack; and CHISPA and South County Housing, the communitys developers.