Ten students from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina braved Colorado's March weather to install solar for two income-qualified households. Coastal Carolina University was one of the participants in GRID's Solar Spring Break, an alternative break program which gives college students from around the country the opportunity to spend their vacation week installing solar in underserved communities.
The students are a part of the Solar Ambassadors Team, led by faculty advisor Pamela Martin. The Solar Ambassadors Team strives to educate the campus and local communities about solar energy, develop a deep understanding of the energy sector and build a national network of environmental stewards.
"We have been here for the last couple of days to learn about the logistics and infrastructure of installing solar panels,” said Connor Kilgore. The students joined Solar Spring Break to learn about the hands-on aspects of solar installation in part because the Solar Ambassadors Group is advocating for the installment of solar panels on a local Veterans of Foreign Wars Community Center. They wanted to get a better understanding of what they’re promoting.
Two of the students, John and Cat, work part time as salespeople for solar companies back home in Carolina. John shared, “I knew it was going to be hands on but I didn’t realize how much hands-on actually helps you learn about the whole thing. Being able to get up there and do the whole install part, it brings it all together.”
Cat shared that, at first, when she got on the roof, “I was scared but it was really cool.” Cat was one of the trip’s planners. A student leader for the Solar Ambassadors, she worked with faculty advisor Pamela Martin to make Solar Spring Break happen. She was excited to finally experience a trip that was two years in the making.
Yvonne Martinez was one of the homeowners who received solar from the Solar Spring Break team. “I love GRID,” she said. “All that they’ve done for me and everyone else in the community is great. Allowing us to be able to have solar which not everyone is able to, but those that they are able to provide it for, it’s amazing.” Yvonne is expected to save more than $16,000 over the system's lifetime.
The students finished their week with a roundtable discussion of solar policy at GRID’s office, then a tour of the solar department at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden.
"I hadn’t expected all the personal and group building aspects [of Solar Spring Break]," said Pamela. "Well beyond the amazing professional training and technical skills, even for me, as an instructor, it was a feat for me to get on the roof and work with my students. It was a wonderful bonding experience.”