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SEIA, GRID Alternatives Launch Women in Solar Program at All-Women Solar Build

Friday, May 26 2017

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By
Rachel Goldstein

It was a beautiful, cool spring day - perfect weather for being outside and climbing up on a roof.

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in an all-women residential solar installation at Bernice Rink’s home in Northeast Washington, DC. This solar build day launched the national Women in Solar Program, a partnership between SEIA and GRID Alternatives. The program seeks to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar industry by providing pathways to technical careers for women.

Bernice welcomed us to her home with big hugs and barbecue, and told us how excited she was to get solar panels. Bernice emphasized that programs like this, which expand solar to fixed and low-income residents, help alleviate the burden of high electricity costs.

“I am thankful for the program; without this program, people like myself on a fixed-income [or who are] low-income would not be able to afford this [...] They have to make a choice between paying their light bill or getting their medications,” says Bernice. Fortunately, Ms. Rink’s 10 new solar modules are expected to lower her electricity bill by and estimated $600 per year while providing her with clean, sustainable energy.

After a thorough safety training and applying sunscreen, our team of about fifteen women got to work. We took shifts going up on the roof and working on wiring at the base of the house. I learned that I have a knack for copper wire-cutting while fellow members of our WE Build team learned to properly carry and lift solar modules and conquer any fear of heights as they climbed onto the roof.

Up on the roof, our team quickly developed a system, trading off roles such as who would lift the panels on to the roof, who would place them on the roof-mounting, and who would use the power tools and set the wiring. We rotated so that everyone would get a turn in each role, and were complimented by the GRID staff on our teamwork and efficiency. In fact, we managed to finish the installation two hours ahead of schedule!

Participating in GRID’s WE Build, it was clear to me that there is no reason women should be discouraged from pursuing a path in solar installation or the more technical side of the solar industry. We were all more than capable of climbing ladders, lifting modules, stripping wires, and working as a team. To have the opportunity to do this while helping a fixed-income resident receive the benefits of solar shows that the solar industry is working to build a new energy model that works for everyone.

Initiatives like the Women in Solar Program are a crucial step in moving our industry forward. Today, women make up 28 percent of the solar workforce, and though numbers have grown in in recent years, women’s talents and leadership are imperative as we continue to build a stronger solar industry. The inaugural “WE Build” that took place last weekend in DC exemplifies the leadership we need to build an equitable workforce and grow access to solar to all who need it.