Solar Spring Break: From Impact Drills to Lasting Impact

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March 21, 2014

Not many can say that they volunteered their spring break week installing solar panels in the lovely city of Denver, CO.  But that’s exactly what University of Central Arkansas’s Environmental Alliance Group did.  That coveted week of camaraderie students normally spend beach-side blowing off steam, 10 UCA students hopped in a car and came to spend their time with GRID Alternatives Colorado and install solar for two local families.

In addition to participating in GRID’s ‘classroom on the roof’ installing solar systems that will save each of the families an average of 80% on their electricity bills, the group spent the last two days learning and working with local organizations having missions similar to GRID. 

The Solar Spring Breakers spent Thursday morning with the elementary students of Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, helping them build solar cookers, wind turbines, and micro-hydro projects out of every day materials.  The children’s hands shot up over and over again, and we were all extremely impressed with the curiosity the students expressed when discussing solar energy.  Later that day a visit to the Growhaus provided insight into food justice.  GRID works to provide energy independence in neighborhoods blighted by years of industrial pollution, along with education in the solar field.  Growhaus, similarly, brings together education and healthy food initiatives in the heavily polluted food desert of Elyria Swansea.  Friday we wrapped up the week at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and with a tour of SMA’s manufacturing facility.  As the students placed grounding strips into their shoes and donned electromagnetic static proof smocks, they knew they were in for a fun and interesting end to the week.    

During a break on the second day of installs, Will remarked, “We’re going to look back on this and be like, ‘remember that time we went to Colorado and literally installed solar panels?’”

To which Phoenix replied, “Exactly, and 20 years from now those solar panels will still be there.”

“Yeah…that’s lasting impact”, said Shelby.

Thanks to the students who traveled to Denver and volunteered with GRID Alternatives.  And thanks to the organizations and staff who helped make this week a success.

-Courtney Boyd, GRID Colorado Volunteer Training Fellow