Solar Road Show - SUCCESS!!

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July 28, 2014
GRID staff, volunteers, partners and clients after the first Solar Road Show installation in Durango

We’re back in Denver after a spectacular week bringing our program state wide with our Solar Road Show, which included installations in Durango, Grand Junction and the Roaring Fork Valley. We’re exhilarated by the overwhelming support of our partners that made the Road Show possible and the communities that came out in force to support our work.

The Solar Road Show installations made a huge impact and will save working Colorado families over $60,000 collectively over the lifetimes of the systems and prevent 405 tons of carbon emissions – equivalent to planting a virtual forest of almost 10,000 trees. Dedicated workforce volunteers also received over 80 hours in valuable job training experience towards their solar careers. Many of them are studying to become NABCEP certified solar installers– which will make them attractive candidates in an industry that has grown more than 20% in the last year alone.

The Solar Road Show also made a huge impact off the roof. We brought communities together around the importance of solar access and showed them what it takes to make solar happen for low-income communities.

GRID Alternatives Colorado Executive Director Chuck Watkins talks about solar access with Durango community members

We want to highlight what each of these areas are doing to help make solar technology and job training accessible to underserved communities. To make our work possible, GRID needs support from the entire communities in which we work, including:

  • Volunteers and workforce trainees to make our installations possible
  • Utility support, programs and financing resources that low-income communities can access
  • Local partners to help with client outreach and energy efficiency services
  • Local sponsors of our work
  • Local governments that support solar-friendly policies, financing, and permitting processes

In our first stop in Durango, with our partners from the Four Corners Office of Resource Efficiency (4CORE), we were welcomed by an enthusiastic community and forward-thinking utility in La Plata Electric Association (LPEA). The installation benefitted the Geraghty family, who run a charity out of their home that helps members of the community in recovery get back on their feet. The Geraghty’s support their two children on a limited income and are very thankful for the savings from the solar system. "The top benefit, most obvious benefit, is a reduction in our energy bill.  We have six adults and two children living in our home…we invite people to live with our family who are in recovery from alcohol abuse and drug addiction. Consequently our electric bill is over $300 a month", said Lauren Geraghty. A savings of over $20,000 over the system’s lifetime will certainly be a huge help to this family and their great work for the community of Durango.

Volunteers from Alpine Bank’s Durango Green Team, 4CORE and Solar City joined GRID’s team leaders and workforce volunteers to make quick work of the first La Plata county installation – with a brief afternoon rain delay to cool everyone off.

To wrap up the day, LPEA’s Michael Rendon spoke about importance of local utility programs for low-income communities and 4CORE’s Gregg Dubbit made a passionate argument for making local, distributed energy and energy efficiency accessible to all because these investments stay in communities and strengthen local families. We’re excited to see where we’ll go in La Plata with such great partners! A bit of local press from the Durango Herald has also helped spike interest in our program after the first successful installation.

For our next stop in the Solar Road Show, we headed up the Western Slope to Fruita, CO and the home of Ashley VanGundy. Ashley is a single mother that operates a hair salon out of her home. She partnered with Housing Resources of Western Colorado to build her home with sweat equity house by house along with her neighbors. She heard about GRID through Housing Resources, and was very excited about the opportunity to participate in another sweat equity program and be more "environmentally friendly". She's excited that solar will "help with a lot of expenses" and allow her to save for her and her son's future. The installation was made possible by Alpine Bank’s sponsorship and dedicated Green Team volunteers.

Alpine Bank volunteers and GRID workforce trainees finish a Solar Road Show installation in Mesa County

That evening’s event at a local brewery brought out overwhelming support from the Mesa County community – families interested in solar, workers wanting to move into solar careers, local government and utility leadership, press, and thirsty volunteers and job trainees from the day. What a great crowd! David Miller of Alpine Bank’s Green Team, who had volunteered out on the roof all that day, spoke about all of Alpine’s partnership with GRID, their environmental investments and other great community efforts. Local sponsor Atlasta Solar’s Darin Carei and Commissioner Steve Acquafresca spoke about local solar impacts from industry and government perspectives. After the event, community members stayed around and mingled with the speakers and local utility representatives, buzzing about how to get to work advancing solar access in the community. GRID was happy to be a part of it!

Check out more on GRID’s Grand Junction Solar Road Show stop from local media coverage by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, KREX News 5, and KAFM Community Radio.

After a quick hike through the spectacular Colorado Monument that almost melted the soles off our shoes, we were off to the mountain communities of the Roaring Fork Valley for our next Solar Road Show event in Carbondale.

This event brought out volunteers and supporters from Aspen CORE, Solar Energy International, Aspen Electric, with keynote speakers Mona Newton, the Executive Director of Aspen CORE and Pam Zentmyer, a Town of Carbondale Trustee. Carbondale’s overwhelming support for access to solar energy was a great way to wrap up the Solar Road Show. From a solar friendly local government in Carbondale to strong solar incentives at Holy Cross Energy, we’re looking forward to participating in a strong program for solar access in the Roaring Fork Valley.  

That’s a wrap for the Solar Road Show! Thanks again to our sponsors and local partners 4CORE, Alpine Bank, Atlasta Solar, and Aspen CORE, as well as all of our volunteers and clients for making it possible. We’re looking forward to working together throughout the state to make solar technology and job training accessible to all of Colorado’s communities.