CSD Santa Rosa Community Solar Project Provides Solar Career Training for Five Tribal Trainees


August 24, 2020
Santa Rosa Tribal Trainees

GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE), an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, is a national leader in making clean renewable energy technology and job training accessible to communities who need it most. GRID’s Tribal Program provides tribal communities in rural areas the ability to become self-sustaining by providing renewable energy technology and job training to its tribal members. 

GRID IE broke ground earlier this year and recently completed phase one of the first low-income community scale project in California, a 1-megawatt solar array. A project of this size required building a team consisting, not only of GRID construction staff, but also trainees who were recruited from the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians. The CSD Santa Rosa Community Solar Project is part of the California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Job Trainee Recruitment
GRID worked with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indian Tribal Administrator Vannessa Minott to help identify eligible and available temporary workers for this community solar project. Priority was given to qualifying tribal members of the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians. There were 10 candidates that applied to the trainee position. Out of these, five were selected and a couple of them were waitlisted in case a spot opened during the 5-week timeline. The five trainees hired were: Alexander "Alex" Alcala, Richard Fierro, Vivian Hamilton, Garret Marcus and Lovina Redner.

The recruitment, interviewing, and onboarding/orientation process all happened with the backdrop of COVID-19 and stay at home orders. Tribal Administrator Vanessa was instrumental in helping GRID line up tribal job candidates for this massive project. GRID IE’s Workforce and Volunteerism department staff were tasked with ensuring that the recruitment process went smoothly, which had to be conducted remotely (via Zoom). GRID IE’s Construction Operations Manager Dan Glasow was on site at the tribal administration building during the orientation process to oversee the recruitment. GRID IE Workforce and Volunteer Manager Cindy Corrales said, “It was an honor and privilege to help support the recruitment of five tribal laborers to join the GRID Alternatives Inland Empire team on this historic low-income community solar project in California! Our laborers got to earn as they learned and gained real work experience on a special project that will positively impact their careers, their community, and their sacred land.”

New Experience for Tribal Trainee
Santa Rosa Tribal member and job trainee Vivian Hamilton said she really enjoyed the experience working on the CSD Santa Rosa Community Solar Project. “This was my first time as a solar trainee with GRID. I learned a wide range of things about how solar works from this project. I was really proud of myself because I did a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know I could do,” said Vivian. She continued, “My husband was vice chairman of the Ramona Indian Reservation where we used to live. The whole reservation was green, and our home was solar. The reservation even had a wind generator backup system. When my husband passed away last year, I moved back home to Santa Rosa Indian Reservation,” said Vivian. 

Vivian grew up on the tribal reservation with the other four trainees and said she really appreciated the camaraderie with the crew. “This project came just when I needed it most. It helped me to redirect my thoughts and take my mind off things. It was a wonderful experience! I would love the opportunity to continue my solar training with GRID and learn new things,” she said. Vivian has three children, two of whom passed away, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She teaches her grandchildren and great grandchild the importance of being energy efficient at home. She is currently having her new home built on the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation and said it will definitely be solarized.

For more information about GRID Alternatives Inland Empire, visit www.gridalternatives.org/ie or call 951-272-GRID(4743).