Earlier this month, the U.S. not-for-profit, which finances, coordinates and installs domestic solar arrays for low income households, reached the significant milestone. It brings the total installed capacity in the scheme to 2.5 megawatts over the 1,000 roofs.
Founded in 2001 and completing the first installation in 2004, GRID Alternatives provides the solar installations free of cost to low income families, organizing everything from the paperwork and applications for incentive schemes, through to procuring the panels and putting together the installation team. The installation is then wholly owned by the homeowner with all the financial benefits that entails.
Co-founder Erica Mackie told pv magazine that while they are pleased with the milestone that it is only really the beginning. "In California alone there are 1.5 million low income home owners, so our 1,000 installations is just a small start in serving the needs of families that really need savings." Mackie went on to say that in 2011, GRID Alternatives had doubled the number of its installations and that that is set to occur again next year.
Another special feature of the GRID Alternatives model is that teams of volunteers can be involved in the installation process, which not only introduces local communities to the benefits of photovoltaic installations, but also provides crucial solar work experience in areas where unemployment remains high. Below – under the solar jobs flower headline – is a pertinent example of how big a difference that can make.
Mackie also told pv magazine that GRID Alternatives is ready to expand its model to other parts of the country. While not every state in the U.S. has similar solar schemes as California and enjoys such a degree of support from the major utlitiy players, there are opportunities for the model to be applied elsewhere. "We are poised for out-of-state and national expansion, but we are also moving very strategically with that."
The GRID Alternatives team has already spread to many parts of California and work with local communities to become established and remain in touch with the special circumstances that exist in each community.
"I believe that the GRID Alternatives model works in many states, and if you look forward to the next ten years we will probably be in those states. But we also want to make sure that we have really strong good local partnerships on the ground to make sure that we serve people in a way that is genuine and understands the communities from which they come."
Funding the installations