Welcome to the first entry in our Igniting Change series. In this series we’ll highlight some of Aurora’s amazing partners and how they’re helping their communities. Our first post looks at the great work GRID Alternatives is doing. Want to learn more? Check out our Impact page for more details on how you can get involved.
To achieve the expansive goals we all have for solar — and renewable energy in general — it’s going to take installs of all shapes and sizes, as well as a trained workforce to do the job.
When we think of solar, many of us default to the classic install on a suburban roof. Don’t get us wrong, this is an extremely important part of the energy transition. But a renewable energy future is contingent on solar being accessible to everyone, everywhere, no matter their housing or location.
This is why organizations like GRID Alternatives are so important. The organization believes that a rapid, equitable transition to a world powered by renewable energy needs to benefit everyone. In GRID’s own words: “Renewable energy can drive economic growth and environmental benefits in communities most impacted by underemployment, pollution, and climate change.”
GRID is a 501(c)(3) certified nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California, with affiliate offices serving all of California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. GRID’s Tribal Program works with Indigenous Nations across the country to achieve energy sovereignty. Internationally, GRID works to improve energy access for off-grid communities in Nepal, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
This work takes creativity. Sure, you could focus just on solar installs, or just on workforce development, or just on advocacy. But GRID is different because it prioritizes each of these approaches, intentionally partnering with communities. It would be impossible to highlight everything the organization does in one post, so let’s look at some of the highlights.
Highlighting its renewable energy for everyone vision — and meshing closely with Aurora’s mission of “a future of solar energy for all” — GRID is leading the way across residential, multifamily, and community solar installs.
In fact, since it was founded in 2001, GRID has served close to 30,000 households and 250 multi-family and community facilities, totaling 2,820,250,431 kW generated, and saving customers almost $700 million. Aurora is proud to help in this effort, donating 170 HelioScope licenses since 2014. Since then, GRID has completed 218 commercial, multi-family, and community solar projects, serving 9,500 families. These projects are estimated to generate $118 million in long-term energy cost savings while preventing 588,000 tons of carbon emissions.
Every solar installer is well aware of the need for qualified, trained professionals in the industry. In fact, according to Aurora’s Solar Industry Snapshot, “[The] struggle to increase employee headcount due to lack of qualified candidates” was one of the top 3 challenges solar installers had in meeting customer demand.
GRID has also stepped in with its Workforce Development Program to promote the technical skills and education required to be successful in today’s green industries. This includes its Installation Basic Training curriculum and its SolarCorps Fellowship Program. In September 2023, GRID Alternatives and Aurora announced a pilot program in partnership with GRID’s SolarCorps fellowship cohort. The idea is that Aurora will provide software, training, and certifications to help Fellows build a career pipeline into the growing clean energy industry.
For this pilot run, we co-designed and implemented a curriculum that integrates Aurora’s software into GRID’s SolarCorps Fellowship program. The pilot program has 48 SolarCorps fellows from diverse backgrounds, including women, individuals who have been justice involved, and residents from underserved communities.
This collaboration aligns with both organizations’ missions to expand access to solar energy for all, increasing the number of qualified professionals that will power a just transition to clean energy, and elevating individuals and groups who need job placement the most. As evidenced by the historic Inflation Reduction Act — which is projected to employ around 400,000 people — incorporating high-quality jobs through these labor workforce pathways is essential to the clean energy transition. So, in the future, we might also explore job placement opportunities through Aurora Solar’s network of solar customers to help realize this goal.
As we look towards the horizon, Aurora is more than proud — we are, in partnership, inspired to stand with GRID Alternative — as they continue to revolutionize the solar landscape and build a future that is as sustainable as it is just and equitable. Stay with us on this journey.