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Partnership benefiting job seekers, homeowners
LINDSAY — A partnership between a nonprofit company and a local community college district is serving to help local homeowners drastically slash their electric bills, get job seekers back to work and clean up the environment.
Seventeen Kern Community College District (KCCD) students worked Wednesday alongside employees from the Fresno-based nonprofit GRID Alternatives to complete the installation of two solar electric systems on the roofs of two Lindsay homes on Hickory and Glenwood streets.
The students, who are job trainees, gain valuable experience from working on such projects and will have a better chance of securing employment once the 245-hour Solar Tech class is over, KCCD clean-energy instructor James Smith said.
The solar electric systems themselves, which are powered by several solar-energy-collecting Sun Power modules, will reduce low-income families’ electric bills by 75 percent, GRID Alternatives development officer Laura Gromis said. By generating cleaner power, the systems will also help cut down on the emission of green-house gases, she said.
Indeed, the partnership is a win-win for everyone involved.
“To me, the program gives the students an edge over people who are untrained,” Smith said. “They will already have the background, the hands-on thinking and the book learning.”
Students Olicer Walker, 23, and Joshua Nelson, 21, agreed.
“We get to look at safety hands-on and learn the fundamentals of what it takes to do the job,” Walker said. “It’s a very beneficial program for someone like me who’s unemployed.”
Added Nelson: “We’re helping other communities by volunteering. Homeowners get a lot out of these programs.”
Nelson couldn’t have said it better, as Edith Orozco, owner of the home on Hickory Street, smiled wide as the students and contractors worked to install 14 of the 3-foot-by-5-foot modules, each complete with 72 cells, on the roof of her home.
Orozco said she became interested in solar energy when she learned that her neighbor, who owns a solar electric system as well, recently paid $1.39 for a month’s worth of power.
“I’m so excited because I really want to save money,” Orozco said, adding that she’s hoping to cut her monthly electric bill during the summertime from about $120 to $30.
“That would be great,” she said.
To date, GRID Alternatives contractors have helped install 1,811 residential solar electric systems, which, according to the company’s website, will generate $46 million worth of power for the families involved.
For those job seekers in Tulare County who are interested in learning more about solar energy and the installation of systems, a Power Tech class will begin in May at Porterville College, and a Solar Tech class will start in July in Delano. For more information, call the Employment Connection at 788-1400.
-- Contact Alex K.W. Schultz at 784-5000, Ext. 1050, or follow him on Twitter @AlexKWSchultz.