For the Farrakhans, Solar Is a Family Affair


May 27, 2021
Khallada ready to go up a ladder to her first install.

“Whatever you do, don’t look down until you’re at the top!” 

Khallada didn’t need to be told twice. She knew the ladder was anchored to the roof of the house, but that didn’t make climbing up it any less scary. Soon enough, she was there - at the edge of the roof where her first solar installation would take place. 

When the GRID Mid-Atlantic supervisor clipped a hook onto her safety harness, Khallada knew she was good to go. From that point, it was all about following her training. She helped locate the rafters and install the flashing and base plates, special equipment that would serve as a foundation for the solar PV system that would eventually sit atop the roof.

Even with the supervisors there, Khallada felt like she needed to make sure everything was done right. Why? Well, because her first solar install just happened to be on her mom’s house.

Lesil Farrakhan, Khallada’s mom, wasn’t at home that very moment. Instead, she was in a highschool in Prince George’s County, where she teaches social studies. Lesil knew she didn’t have to worry about how the install was going. Khallada was there, and she knew her daughter would see to things.

“I’m happy for her,” says Lesil, “She seems to be getting a lot out of the program.” Khallada is a member of the Spring Cohort of Solar Works DC, GRID Mid-Atlantic’s job training program for District residents that is made possible through a partnership with the Department of Energy and Environment, as well as the Department of Employment Services. Khallada will spend twelve weeks in Solar Works DC while she learns the ins-and-outs of solar installation and soft skills that will be useful in the solar industry and beyond. 

“I enjoy the hands-on portion as well as the Interplay Learning,” says Khallada, referring to the computer program that trainees use to get familiar with solar installation concepts. “It’s been coupled with job readiness and that’s also pretty helpful. Learning how to do interviews, memorizing your elevator pitch, getting your resume reviewed, networking. Pretty much everything from A to Z.”

For her part, Khallada has been taking full advantage of this opportunity to learn about solar. Now that she’s over halfway through the training program, she’s mostly gotten over her fear of heights, and she doesn’t have trouble going up a ladder to get on a tall roof anymore. Now she’s able to focus on the learning process, and she’s enjoying the fact that her work is helping people in her community save money on their electric bills.

That includes her mom, who applied for no-cost solar through the city after struggling with high energy bills. The Farrakhans had discussed getting solar in the past, but the upfront costs were always an obstacle. “It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time, so seeing that Solar Works DC and GRID Alternatives actually made it possible for us to get is a blessing.”

When Lesil heard about the job training component of the Solar Works DC program, she thought it would be a good fit for her environmentally-minded daughter. She wasn’t wrong.

“I love sustainability, I love solar. I love the fact that it can not only help the environment, but it can help people who need financial help,” explains Khallada, who is planning on joining the industry as an installer. Eventually though, she wants to learn how to design solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and also become involved in conducting site visits to get the lay of the homes she hopes to be designing systems for.

When asked about where she sees herself in five years, Khallada says that she’s not entirely sure, but “I’m excited for what the future holds.”

As the clean energy economy continues to grow, GRID Mid-Atlantic will continue it's mission in making the solar industry more equitable, inclusive, and diverse so that the excitement Khallada feels can felt by many more after her.