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College Students to Install Solar Systems for Inland Empire Homeowners During Spring Break

RIVERSIDE, CA- Twelve North Carolina State University (NC State) students are spending a week with GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE). As part of GRID’s Solar Spring Break program, college students from multiple universities will travel across the country to bring clean, renewable energy to families and help them significantly reduce their electric bills. The NC State students will be installing four solar electric systems in addition to learning more about the renewable energy industry in the Inland Empire. Later in the week, on March 8, they will be celebrating with a few of the 2,700 job trainees and volunteers GRID IE has trained during GRID’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration event.

Since its inception Solar Spring Break has grown expeditiously from six teams in 2014 to 19 teams nationwide in 2018, coming from diverse universities and colleges such as University of Michigan, California State University East Bay, Duke University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This program takes an interdisciplinary approach by providing an opportunity for passionate students to combine sustainability, community development, and renewable energy technologies education.

The NC State students, all engineering majors, will spend 24 volunteer hours installing solar on four homes in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Their hands-on training will be led by GRID’s professional installation supervisors and SolarCorps construction fellows. Additionally, these students will visit the Mars Petcare solar farm and University of California Riverside (UCR) College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) facility to supplement their engineering studies. The students will also hike in the San Bernardino National Forest accompanied by experts on Southern California ecology.

The students’ impact during their spring break week include offsetting 315 tons of greenhouse gases by the installed solar systems and $154,000 in lifetime savings for the four homeowners. To date, 1,340 Riverside and San Bernardino County homeowners have gone solar with GRID at no cost to them. Mars Petcare and UCR CE-CERT are excited to collaborate with organizations such as GRID to continue to bring sustainable change to the Inland Empire.

“We are excited about this year’s Solar Spring Break and welcome the students from NC State,” said Bambi Tran, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives Inland Empire. “The students will have a fun and educational experience, putting into practice what they have learned in the lecture halls. More than that, students will learn, implement, and experience how the power of the sun can bring real-world benefits to real-world economic problems in our communities.”

Dr. Alfredo Martinez-Morales, managing director of UCR’s Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy at CE-CERT is hosting the spring break team for an afternoon. “We are looking forward to interacting with the students from NCSU and complementing their experience by showing them some of the exciting research on solar energy being done at UCR,” said Dr. Martinez-Morales. “This program provides a fantastic opportunity for students to learn first-hand the direct and positive impact that solar energy has towards disadvantaged communities, the environment, and the local economy. GRID’s program is an excellent way for sustainable-minded engineering students to spend their spring break by taking their education outside the classroom.”

Every student on the team has their own reasons for dedicating their vacation to GRID. Jonathan Schertz, the student leader and second time Solar Spring Breaker, says, “As an engineering student, it’s easy to get bogged down with all the technical parts and forget why we are here – to make the world a better place. GRID brings the technical side to the humanitarian.” Jonathan feels that, “[The] Solar Spring Break program’s message and education is crucial to raising a generation of adept, socially-mindful engineers.”

GRID provides income qualified families throughout the Inland Empire with long-term relief from unpredictable utility costs, while training individuals for positions in the solar industry. Currently there are more than 250,000 solar workers across the U.S., and more than 100,000 of these solar jobs derive from California. GRID is an industry leader and recognized as the largest non-profit solar installers in the nation.

About GRID Alternatives

GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that makes renewable energy technology and job training accessible to undeserved communities, bringing together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families. GRID’s work has helped 9,800 families to date, saving $307 million in lifetime electricity costs, and over 35,000 people have received solar training. GRID Alternatives has nine regional offices and affiliates serving California, Colorado, the mid-Atlantic region, and Tribal communities nationwide. For more information, visit www.gridalternatives.org.

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