** After this page closes on 3/3/2020, we will continue fundraising on this site **
This year’s spring break, two groups of 12 UC Berkeley students will be traveling to areas around Oakland and Sacramento to install solar panels for low-income households. This is the 7th year that UC Berkeley students are participating in Solar Spring Break, a program hosted by the nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives. Solar Spring Break is supported on the UC Berkeley campus by the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC), and is comprised of a week-long trip over spring break for training and installation of solar panels, and a semester-long DeCal (student-taught class) on the topics of solar energy and environmental justice in California.
Figure 1: Oakland team during SSB 2019
Most residential areas today are powered by energy from fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable, polluting, and contribute to climate change. Furthermore, according to the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), the US residential sector makes up for about 40% of the total MWh (megawatt-hours) of electricity used in 2018. So in order to decarbonize our energy system, it is essential to increase renewables in the residential electricity mix. However, the upfront cost of rooftop solar systems is a major barrier that deters many homeowners from switching to solar. By installing solar panels on qualifying homes in underrepresented communities, our team seeks to provide needed financial savings for residents while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that renewable energy and utility savings should not be reserved just for those with the means to afford solar panel installations. People struggling to make ends meet are the ones who would benefit the most from stabilized and reduced electricity bills, and that is why we focus on this demographic.
Figure 2: Salinas team during SSB 2018
In addition to advocating for environmental justice in underrepresented communities, participants of Solar Spring Break will also acquire the technical skills needed to install solar panels. This hands-on learning experience will actively enrich participants’ knowledge and understanding of solar energy and prepare for a career in the field of renewable energy.
Solar energy is a renewable and carbon neutral source of energy. Once set up, it involves minimal maintenance and running costs, while providing a reliable electricity output. However, the initial installation costs of an average sized home solar panel system (5 kilowatts) can cost about $12,900-$16,500 in California mainly due to the prohibitively high costs of photovoltaic systems, as well as the labor and electronic components required. Thus, even with subsidized rates and incentives provided by utility companies, most low income communities still cannot afford these facilities. GRID Alternatives aims to overcome this cost barrier and make solar power accessible to all. This will improve the financial well-being and living standards of impoverished communities.
One participating team of 12 people costs us about $5,000, and since we are participating two teams in two different areas this year, we need to raise around $10,000 to cover our costs to install on four homes in total. Here is a more detailed budget breakdown:
Program Fees (Staff time, solar panels, programming): $8,200
Meals/Food for both groups for a week: $800
Transportation to/around Sacramento and Oakland (BART, rideshare, gas, etc.): $400
Grand Total: $9,500
Money raised through this crowdfunding will directly bring the environmental and economic benefits of solar power to under-served households in Oakland and Sacramento. Please make a gift today to help us reach our goal so we can bring renewable, affordable energy to those households and give students hands-on experience with solar technology!
For more information about the program, do not hesitate to contact Jesica or Ashley at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.