This week, 40 high school students from California's Inland Empire region trained through the Solar Future program of GRID Alternatives helped to install solar power systems on four houses built by Habitat for Humanity in Moreno Valley, Calif.
During the two-day event, juniors and seniors who had been through classroom instruction conducted by GRID Alternatives served as volunteers for the installation of photovoltaic panels provided by SunPower. Five high schools were involved in the Habitat for Humanity solar build this week, three of which have long-term partnerships with GRID Alternatives. About eight to 15 students from each school were involved.
SunPower has contributed 1 MW of solar panels and inverters to Solar Futures and similar GRID Alternatives programs.
Bambi Tran, regional director of the Inland Empire at GRID Alternatives, says the installation serves as the culmination of coursework intended to raise awareness of the opportunities in the solar industry while also providing some of the training and knowledge related to those opportunities. The Solar Futures program provides the students with an orientation that focuses on general knowledge about renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also provides an overview of tools, safety gear and safety practices.
‘A lot of the learning actually happens on-site, where installation supervisors take the students step-by-step through everything from laying out the systems to splicing the rails and using power tools,’ Tran says.
Tran adds that the Inland Empire region is only recently emerging from the economic downturn – and very slowly at that. Students are trying to figure out what career possibilities are available to them. Through Solar Futures, GRID Alternatives is seeking to show students that the solar sector can offer opportunities they might not have considered before. The opportunities extend beyond installation, although there is clearly a need for that. Other less obvious opportunities include or deal with sales, finance, design, logistics and other necessary skills the solar industry needs.
‘There is a need for young talent to join the solar industry at all different levels,’ Tran says. ‘We get contacted all the time by companies asking us if we have leads on qualified or trained people who have been through our programs. Not just for installation, but also for sales, design and permitting.’
For more information on Solar Futures, click here.