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College Students Spend Spring Break Installing Solar on Low-Income Housing

Forget the beach. These students are spending their spring break bringing energy efficiency to low-income residents in Washington, DC.

Thursday, Mar 23 2017

Morgan Lyons

GRID Alternatives’ Solar Spring Break gives college students a chance to spend their off-week installing solar on low-income housing around the country. Last week, the program came to Washington, DC. While their friends spent the break relaxing on the beach, a dozen students from the University of North Carolina were installing solar in Southeast DC.

The program requires participating students to raise the money to cover the cost of the installation, lodging and other programming throughout the week. They receive hands on experience on how to install a residential solar system through training that culminates in actually installing a rooftop PV system.

Most of the students participating in last week’s Solar Spring Break in DC are part of an environment/sustainability organization at UNC, and are looking forward to careers in clean energy and sustainability. “This is such an awesome opportunity to take what we learn and apply it in real life,” said one of the UNC students on his second year of participating in the Solar Spring Break program.

Though a late-season snowstorm delayed some of the week’s programming, the students finally got up on the roof later in the week to start the installation. Once completed, the 118 kW solar system will span across a nine-building multifamily residential complex, providing electricity for all of the common areas.


The cost savings will allow the development owner to provide upgrades in all 94 units, including energy-efficient appliances, HVAC units, windows, light fixtures and other upgrades at no cost to residents. These upgrades will translate to big savings on tenants’ monthly utility bills. The NHP Foundation, which owns the low-income housing development, is providing the funding upfront through a DC Sustainability grant.

The students should be commended for braving the cold weather and spending their vacation giving back to underpriviliged communities. GRID Alternatives’ Solar Spring Break sessions are being held across the country, preparing students for work in solar and helping make solar accessible for all Americans. Click here to learn more about GRID and their Solar Spring Break program.

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