SOLAR FINDS ITS PLACE IN THE SUN AMONG AMERICA'S POOR
28 Nov 2018
In a white hard hat, cargo work pants and sunglasses, Krystal Ruiz climbs the scaffolding of a multifamily public housing unit on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Ruiz is installing solar panels on the building as an installation supervisor with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit providing solar energy to low-income communities in cities across the U.S. She’s excited. A public housing tenant herself, Ruiz is helping to realize the potential of solar power for communities that simply couldn’t access it a decade ago.
It’s a silent revolution sweeping across America’s landscape even as the federal government rolls back its climate commitments under President Donald Trump. When engineers Erica Mackie and Tim Sears founded GRID Alternatives in 2001, after working in renewable-energy installation in the private sector, they were loners. Now, lower costs, policy changes and a growing recognition of the market potential of less-well-off communities are combining to make what were earlier government- and nonprofit-led do-gooder initiatives attractive for the private solar-energy sector too.