Trainees and volunteers added about 100 modules to low-income housing in their first two days of work

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March 23, 2018

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An instructor with a slide showing a solar rooftop presents
Adewale OgunBadejo, Workforce Development Manager, introduces GRID Alternatives to Santa Monica residents.

In spite of some April showers that made an early appearance on the horizon, last week was an important solar milestone in the City of Santa Monica: GRID Alternatives' first solar photovoltaic project came to housing stock in the Mid-Town area. In light of its longstanding interest in sustainability, sunny Santa Monica makes a lot of sense as a market for traditional installers … but one of the coastal city's most important providers of low-income housing, Community Corporation of Santa Monica, had yet to tap into the clean, green energy of the sun as of 2018. Under the leadership of Executive Director Tara Barauskas, though, things now look pretty bright for this operator. With more than two dozen kilowatts added to three of its resident buildings, we're thrilled to say that Community Corp. has gone solar in a major way. They'll now look forward to some massive reductions in their utility bills that save funds for the core work of providing environmentally sustainable homes for people of modest means, thanks to our growing program to serve Multifamily.

Communities like Santa Monica grapple with affordability issues regularly, and it was challenges like these prompted that Community Corp. to begin its own work three decades ago. As a recent piece of Mirror coverage noted, Santa Monica has recently been hit hard by countwide problems around the need for permanent shelter; those shortages have reached a level nearing crisis. During a time when the number of unhoused individuals in Santa Monica is increasing by 4% or more, supporting developers like Community Corp. that address the affordable housing shortage with systematic solutions becomes an obvious public intererest. But utility costs can be a massive expense for a housing provider with a tight budget.

Thankfully for Santa Monicans of modest means, who've relied on Community Corp. to keep cost of Westside living reasonable ever since a 1990 ballot measure required over 30% the city's new housing to be affordable, this new influx of renewable energy bodes well. GRID Alternatives' on-the-roof engagement with the community here took place over two full installation days (a compressed schedule to lay down more than ninety panels, but one we managed to pull off due to inclement weather). Plus, we spent another day in the common area of one of our buildings, speaking to Santa Monican renters about the opportunities our community-based model brings to hopeful members of tomorrow's energy workforce. Workforce Development Manager Adewale OgunBadejo worked with Multifamily Program Manager Alex Turek to present residents a range of options to get trained and involved in our industry, including an intro to our SaMo partners in the Santa Monica College Sustainable Technologies Program that can give solar trainees classroom instruction.

We appreciate Adjunct Professor Stuart Cooley for generously offering us time during his weekend to speak about all that clean energy can do economically and environmentally – sending the message that projects like this week's should mean something to all of us.