When "We Build" together, anything is possible

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August 21, 2017
Several women sit under a large blue tarp, other women are wearing rain coats, smiling at the camera

Forty-five women from around the country joined together earlier this month to help build the Coyote Ridge Solar Array at GRID Colorado’s annual We Build Retreat, a weekend of service learning and networking for women in solar and related careers. The project the women worked on is the nation’s largest low-income community solar array. Over half of the 1.95 megawatt array will serve low-income qualified households, affordable housing, and mission-aligned nonprofits. We Build’s participants came together to build with their hands, but also build a framework for women to thrive in the renewable energy industry.

The retreat was meant to kick off with a campfire, but a sudden thunderstorm interfered. Instead, the inventive group rigged up a shelter out of tarps, and spent Friday evening getting to know each other under unusually close conditions.

Saturday’s work started bright and early as we traveled to the Coyote Ridge Solar Array to learn about the site and project development. The group made short work of the day’s task, assembling and installing more than 40 percent of the project’s actuator, drive post, and idler post brackets.

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For Vicky Mandell, Board President of GRID Colorado, We Build was a special example of GRID’s mission in action. Vicky told the group how the support of women had provided her opportunities to grow throughout her career. “GRID wants women to succeed in the solar industry,” said Vicky. “We Build provides a forum for women to build together, and to learn and practice how supporting women’s work is a virtuous circle that advances opportunities for all women.”

Gillian Weaver, of the Colorado Energy Office, was one of those women. “It was a valuable opportunity to meet women contributing to projects related to [my] work and connect with them over the experience of building a community solar array,” she said. It was her first time installing solar with GRID, but hopefully not the last! 

Gillian (right) works with a partner to place a dampener bracket on top of a large post.
Gillian (right) works with a partner to place a dampener bracket.

Laura Galavis, the Assistant Project Manager for GRID’s San Diego office, participated as a panel speaker at the We Build Retreat. During the panel discussion, she shared why it is so important to her to see women taking on construction jobs. Laura was born in Venezuela and studied to be a mechanical engineer. She found GRID online, and that’s when her career in solar started. “I love seeing the project from beginning to end, and you get that in construction. I’m not an office person, I like the field,” she said. ”One of the things I like about GRID is that there are a lot of women in construction.” Laura found it so powerful to be with the women of We Build Retreat, she brought her intern Erica to the event as well, to show her “there are plenty of women like you… who have common goals and who are fueled by similar passions.” 

Learn more about GRID’s Women in Solar Program.

With many thanks to our facilitator, Pam Cargill, and our sponsors: