In the June edition of the Sol SOURCE we introduced our Infrastructure + Impact Spotlight Series, an opportunity for our staff, partners, and customers to get to know the community-based organizations we work with, other notable organizations that are doing their part to ensure a just and sustainable future, and to learn more about Sol’s role in facilitating the journey towards a more just energy future.
This quarter we highlight our partnership with GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic (GRID), a non-profit based in Washington D.C. that provides no-cost solar installations and solar job training. GRID Alternatives is a community partner in our partnership with Microsoft to combine a 500-megawatt (MW) framework power purchase agreement (PPA), one of the country’s largest, with a groundbreaking strategy to invest in under-resourced communities and communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.
GRID’s mission is building community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice through renewable energy. Through their Solar Works DC and Solar Futures programs, GRID provides hands-on, group-based installation training and soft skills development for DC residents. This workforce development program is crucial in making the solar industry more inclusive for people of color. Additionally, GRID works extensively with low- to moderate-income residents in DC—including Wards 7 and 8, historically marginalized areas in DC where access to affordable, healthy food is limited or non-existent. In these food deserts, areas where it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality fresh food, resources are scarce and environmental issues are more severe. GRID helps democratize renewable solar energy to make affordable electricity, cleaner air, and sustainable career development available to everyone.
GRID is led by Executive Director Elijah Perry, a charming and passionate DC resident whose family has called the District home for decades. Elijah believes firmly in the principle that even marginal changes have impact on intractable problems. This adage is also becoming clearer to me as I work in community impact and through collaborations with people like Elijah—we do not need to wait to be able to move mountains to solve problems. Our work could start small and lead to a ripple effect in the community. GRID’s work in the Washington DC community, led by Elijah, is a pebble breaking the surface of the pond.
There is no better example of the immense impact of GRID’s work in the community than Jahlil Wormley, a graduate of the Solar Works DC program. When Jahlil graduated high school, he was unsure about what career options he could pursue. In the few months following his graduation, he experienced homelessness and gun violence. The violent experiences threatened his life and his ability to walk again. Two years later, Jahlil is not only walking well, but he also lives in his own apartment and earns $20 per hour in his first full-time job at Tesla Energy in Prince George’s County, MD. He credits GRID’s Solar Works DC program for helping him get his life on track. Not only did Jahlil attend the hands-on solar installation training, but he also used the career development and wrap-around support services provided by the program. Solar Works DC trains people on how to install solar panels and provides support through resume building, financial literacy, mock interviews, and addressing needs related to mental health, hunger and other issues that can affect personal growth.
Since the fall of 2021, over 40 participants have graduated from GRID’s workforce training programs. Out of these graduates, 19 of them have received offers for solar jobs in the Washington DC metropolitan area. One local partner hired four trainees from the class, the most hires made by a single organization. This employment opportunity includes a trip abroad to work on solar installation projects in Kenya. According to Elijah, the intangible benefits from an opportunity to travel internationally are immeasurable especially for people who never left the locality where they were born and raised. Not only does GRID help its trainees to secure employment with its partners, GRID also frequently hires trainees as instructors for new classes. To continue playing a role in addressing the gender disparities that exist in the solar industry, GRID has hired three women from the recent class as full-time solar instructors.
A financial contribution from Sol Systems (Sol) enhanced GRID’s ability to provide financial and computer literacy components to the installer training curriculum, career support activities, build community partnerships, and engage more employers to support greater inclusion in the solar sector.
Sol’s commitment to under-resourced communities is a priority shared by the leadership and staff. On April 13, 2022, staff at Sol participated in an Employer Day hosted by GRID for Solar Works DC trainees. During that session, Sol staff shared their various pathways to a career in the solar industry, offered instruction on job search, interviewing and soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace, tips on the benefits of mentorship, etc. The benefits of learning from employees in an organization in the industry where a person hopes to gain a foothold are innumerable especially in the face of barriers to advancement. On April 23, 2022, GRID Alternatives joined Sol Systems to celebrate Earth Day at a Starbucks Community Store event in Landover Hills, Maryland. Partnering with organizations like GRID shows how meaningful engagement with communities to tackle local challenges and build a sustainable pathway for future generations can be accomplished when the mission is shared by leadership, staff, and the community.
 Solar Works DC is part of the Department of Energy and Environment’s Solar for All program, which seeks to provide the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households and reduce their energy bills
by 50% by 2032.
 To read more about Jahlil Wormley’s story, visit GRID’s website at: For Jahlil, Solar Works DC Provided More Than Just Solar Training | GRID Alternatives