MIT Students Spending Spring Break Installing No-Cost Solar Panels on Pasadena Homes

Published : Wednesday, March 28, 2018 | 4:46 PM

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students trekked from the east coast to Pasadena this week to spend their spring break installing no-cost rooftop solar panel systems on local homes.

Solar Spring Break is an initiative created by GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that recruits students from 19 colleges around the country to learn about solar energy and receive hands-on experience bringing solar panel installations to low-income households.

“We’re in a community in Pasadena where a low-income homeowner is having the chance to receive the system for free,” said Danny Hom, communications director at GRID Alternatives. “She’ll see huge bill savings once this system is online that will make staying in her home a little more affordable,”

Grid Alternatives offers Solar Spring Break every March and this week is the first time the nonprofit has worked with a homeowner in Pasadena for the program.

The organization brings solar to upwards of 200 families in Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties each year.

GRID official said it has installed solar for more than 10,000 families to-date and helped households and housing providers save $305 million in lifetime electricity costs, while training over 35,000 people.

“The low-income, no cost solar program that we run serves people all throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. We do quite a bit of work in Pasadena, particularly out here near the Rose Bowl where there is a little bit of environmental impact from the freeways,” said Hom.

Families receive the benefits of renewable energy at no cost and meanwhile, each of these projects provides a job training site.

“Whether the people out with us are … students or whether they’re people who are released from prison and they are formerly incarcerated trainees looking to get back into the workforce, we create opportunities for people to get good jobs while helping others,” said Hom.

During Solar Spring Break, a team of students spends a week learning about solar system design, installing solar panels, visiting community organizations like Homeboy Industries and social enterprises like Mercado La Paloma to have conversations about social and environmental justice, and learning about California’s pioneering investments in solar access.

“My research actually focuses on that so I really wanted to learn more about it. This experience has definitely helped me deepen my understanding of the technology,” said M.I.T. engineering student Ethan Sit.

“It’s a really good exercise in engineering and it’s a very valuable program for an engineering student like me,” added Sit.

Solar Spring Break, a national alternative break program, has grown from six schools in 2014 to 19 schools in 2018, creating opportunities for students to make a difference in low-income communities while getting hands-on with renewable energy. Solar Spring Break is sponsored by Wells Fargo.

GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles is the largest regional office of GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs accessible to low-income communities and communities of color.

GRID Alternatives has nine regional offices and affiliates serving California, Colorado, the mid-Atlantic region, and Tribal communities nationwide, and serves communities in Nicaragua, Nepal and Mexico.

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