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Bishop Tribe launching solar projects

July 18, 2014

Tribal job trainees Harlan Dewey, Ty Poncho and Chris Aukee (l-r) install solar panels on a home on the Bishop Reservation as a part of a program with non-profit solar installer, GRID Alternatives. Another round of installations begins next week, with four homes slated to receive solar panels as Tribal members receive job training. Photo courtesy GRID Alternatives Inland Empire

Next week, under the warm Eastern Sierra Nevada sky, a team of Bishop Paiute Tribe job trainees will construct four solar electric systems for low-income families on the Reservation, from start to finish.
This work is part of the on-the-job solar training program with non-profit solar installer, GRID Alternatives, which makes renewable energy technology and training accessible to underserved communities.
Studies show the rapidly expanding solar industry is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak labor market. Employers expect to add about 16 percent more jobs in 2014, according to a recent Solar Foundation report, but four out of five solar companies say they cannot find applicants with enough relevant experience. GRID Alternatives gives Bishop Paiute workers that experience, bringing its three-day “classroom on the roof” solar training program direct-ly to the Reservation. The trainees will work side-by-side with GRID Alternatives’ solar professionals to install solar electric systems for low-income families on the Reservation.
According to the Tribe, while the trainees learn and apply their skills, they also help families in need to lower their electricity bills and obtain substantial and much needed savings.
“GRID Alternatives’ program is a win-win-win for the Tribe,” said Marcella Keller, director of the Bishop Paiute Tribal Employment Rights Office, who has been instrumental in coordinating the training. “Our workers gain a tangible skill and our homeowners save hundreds of dollars. And these solar systems help to clean the air, protecting the natural environment for our future generations as well.”
After completion of the solar training program, the top-performing trainees will be eligible to be hired by GRID Alternatives’ local solar subcontractors that are charged with installing dozens more solar systems for residents on the Reservation as part of GRID Alternatives’ solar
program for income-eligible
homeowners.
GRID Alternatives and the Bishop Paiute Tribe launched their partnership in 2013 in order to bring the benefits of solar technology and solar job training to the Reservation. “Rooftop solar is working for the reservation,” Bishop Paiute Environmental Director Brian Adkins said. “GRID has helped the Tribe to identify ways to maximize generation on existing rooftops and disturbed areas – this helps conserve land for other uses. The current program is predominantly funded by rate-payer funds through the Single–Family Affordable Solar Housing Project made possible by the California Solar Initiative.
“The electrical needs of the Reservation are presently served entirely by a California public utility, Southern California Edison, so there is much opportunity to make a difference for our low-income residents that qualify for the program,” he concluded.
To date, more than 12 members from tribes and communities in the area have been trained and nine families have received solar electric systems at no cost to them.
“The Tribal Council is proud to be able to help our members make low or no-cost rooftop solar a reality,” said Bishop Paiute Tribal Chairman Dale Delgado Jr. “We thank GRID Alternatives and the California Solar Initiative SASH program for their low-income programs and for the partnerships that strengthen our self-determination while helping the environment.”

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