The two seemingly disparate topics of solar energy and spring break have come together to create an amazing synergy.
Today, not every college student spends spring break partying on the beach. Some are instead choosing to spend that time bringing solar power to underserved communities.
Through a unique program developed by GRID Alternatives, students are helping families in need while gaining useful hands-on experience and learning about photovoltaic installations.
The GRID Alternatives Solar Program
GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization, established with the goal of making solar energy and job training in the industry accessible for everyone.
To that end, their week-long spring break program includes project site tours and evaluations, community outreach and actual practice and training in solar energy installations.
To participate in the program, teams of college students are required to help cover the costs of their housing accommodations, program activities and solar equipment. For projects located in the United States, teams are responsible for a $5,000 financial contribution, spread among 10 to 12 team members.
GRID Alternatives assists teams in developing fundraising plans to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for students, though students are responsible for their own food and transportation costs.
It’s a little like raising field trip money in grade school, but for a much more charitable purpose.
Colleges Involved in Solar Spring Break Projects
The GRID Alternatives college break program has definitely grown over the three years it has been in existence. Initially, only six schools were involved. This year, more than 100 students from 10 colleges participated.
Teams of students from Duke University, the University of Michigan, Arizona State University, the University of Nevada and several other well-respected colleges installed solar power on a total of 17 homes in California and Colorado this year.
Registration for the 2017 program has not yet begun, but will be open to teams from any college.
Benefits of Solar Spring Break
While no experience is necessary to participate in the GRID Alternatives program, many of those who become involved in the college break project do so to further their career opportunities.
Solar energy engineering students gain real-world perspective on everything involved in solar installations, putting to practical use the knowledge they have gained from studying textbooks.
From surveying potential project sites and designing photovoltaic systems to actually performing the installations, this kind of first-hand experience is incredibly valuable, and counts toward graduation requirements at some colleges.
For example, North Carolina Central University, home of one of the teams participating this year, requires community service as a pre-requisite for graduation, and the solar spring break program qualifies.
If you know a student who might be interested in volunteering next year, you can learn more about the GRID Alternatives project on their website.
Intermountain Wind & Solar, serving clients throughout Utah and the Intermountain West, applauds these young people who give their break time to help others realize the power of photovoltaic energy, and to learn more about jobs in our industry.
Contact us today to learn more about adding solar energy to your home or business.