Worker profile: Why I #PutSolarOnIt

California solar work Jose Cardenas

Guest column by Jose Cardenas, (pictured above on the right) a solar installation supervisor with GRID Alternatives in Los Angeles.

Last year, UCLA came out with a study saying that if the Greater Los Angeles area put solar panels on every roof that is solar ready, we could generate about half the electricity needed for the entire state. This fact alone shows how great our clean energy potential is in California.

The first time I saw rooftop solar was in my very own neighborhood. I started noticing houses with solar panels and was curious as to how they worked. So, I began to gather more information on what rooftop solar was, and through my research learned more about the technology and its many advantages.

For me, the idea of putting solar on my home meant saving money, conserving energy, and being good to the environment. However, the prospect of obtaining solar for my home seemed unreachable. Then I heard about the organization GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that trains workers and installs solar in low income communities. With their help, I became a proud owner of a home that runs on the sun.

After experiencing the direct benefits of rooftop solar, I became a volunteer with GRID and helped install solar on 50 homes like mine. Because of my dedication to bringing low-cost, pollution free energy to underserved communities, I was hired on as a full time employee with GRID. Since then, I have helped 100 homes go solar and I do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

For the families that we work with, putting a solar panel on their home eliminates the burden of paying yet another bill. Instead, they can put the money they saved on energy costs toward their kids’ education, health care, or groceries. The work we do proves that clean energy is not a resource reserved for the privileged, but an important way to help low income families make ends meet. If people in my community would be given the chance, they would go solar.

I’m excited for the June 21 #PutSolarOnIt day of action because it will help more people go solar. Nationwide, grassroots activists will highlight rooftop solar as a source of clean energy and jobs in their communities, and they'll call for even more homes, businesses, and public buildings to "put solar on it."

So far, GRID Alternatives has brought clean, solar power to 715 homes in low-income communities throughout the Los Angeles area, which totals to nearly $15 million in savings over the technology’s lifetime. However, tens of thousands of homes in and near Los Angeles are capable of going solar, which means that right now the thousands of dollars families are spending on energy is not going to important things, like saving for their kid’s college education. Limiting our solar capacity is limiting California families, and we have to fix this problem.

While the upfront cost of installing solar on a homeowner's roof has become more affordable, there is still more that we can do to bring rooftop solar power to every community that wants it, regardless of income. We need to start by thinking of how we can make going solar easier.

The process of approving a solar permit varies from city to city, making it difficult for companies to have a presence across the state. If a permit process is particularly burdensome, families lose out on energy savings as they wait for approval. Cities like Long Beach and Lancaster have made the process seamless for solar businesses to install solar panels, allowing families to reap the benefits sooner. If we can streamline these steps across the state, putting a solar panel on a home will be as easy as using the sun for energy.

With nearly 300 guaranteed days of sun a year, ever improving solar technology, and with the trained workforce we have in California, families like mine, my neighbors, or yours have the resources available to transition to clean energy. And trust me, as someone who made the jump, I know how putting solar on a home not only benefits our pocketbooks, but also our economy, or air, and our communities.

It’s time for everyone to #PutSolarOnIt!

Worker profile: Why I #PutSolarOnIt
Jose Cardenas went from rooftop solar customer to rooftop solar installer - and he sees the massive potential for solar nationwide.

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