Diversifying the energy grid with GRID Alternatives

This week, Green.Org had the opportunity to connect with Shyla Black, Progam Coordinator for the GRID Alternatives North Valley in California. GRID is a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization based in Oakland, California, with eight affiliate offices serving all of California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. GRID also has a national Tribal Program, and an International Program serving Nicaragua, Nepal and Mexico.

Each location focuses on a different aspect based on community needs; in the North Valley, GRID Alternatives helps low-income families save money while bringing clean solar energy onto the grid, and providing volunteers and job seekers with hands-on experience in solar. Since 2011, the North Valley office has been helping families go solar throughout northern California.

Let’s get to learn more about Shyla and her work in diversifying the energy grid with GRID Alternatives!

Tell us a little bit about you, your background, and your current role:

I studied English Literature in college and had planned on teaching but I ended up giving in to the nine year old in me that was inspired by Farley Mowat to be an environmentalist. After years of working on organic farms, nurseries and seed companies, I ended completing a fellowship at GRID Alternatives. I chose the fellowship over farming because I wanted to be a part of decreasing carbon emissions and working on a larger scale to “save the planet.”

After completing the year long fellowship I was hired on as a Program Coordinator (PM). My role here is building a robust pipeline for our Multifamily and Commercial team. This means client acquisition and project development assistance on projects for affordable housing developments and nonprofits. I am also deeply committed to partnership building in the communities we serve by advocating for community centered solutions for renewable energy that serves everyone. This means, working in rebuilding post disaster(s), like the Camp Fire, Dixie Fire, and the North Complex Fires that happened just up the road from where I live. I work with grassroots environmental organizations, city officials, universities, property managers, and tenants living in affordable communities to learn the best approach to high utility burdens for a specific community.

Those solutions can be rooftop or carport solar for common areas and tenant benefit for affordable housing. It can be a system offsetting costs for a nonprofit so they can use that savings for other programming. It can be solar in a park, or on a reservation, or battery back up so facilities can keep leveraging solar on cloudy days or during planned power shut offs. GRID is a turnkey service provider so we do all the work. We complete the technical assistance needed for design, permitting, installation and interconnection. As well the leg work needed to leverage state, local, or philanthropic fundraising to pay for the systems. My role entails coordinating all of the above.

What is a fun fact about you?

I love gardening and listening to people talk about where they are from. The best way to spend the day besides assisting tenants decrease utility burdens is scrambling in creeks all day.

Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today? 

Climate change is such an important issue today because we have ignored scientists for years about decreasing our carbon footprint and now we are running out of time to correct our mistakes. It is the most important issue because we are beginning to see how climate change will destroy what we have come to take for granted. And it should, because all the privileges of an economy based on production and wealth gaps should be reminded that we cannot be whole without a healthy planet. We cannot raise children to know what it feels like to spend all summer playing outside if the air is too full of smoke from wildfires, or too hot, or too rainy, or whatever extreme weather and climate events lie ahead without incredible change and action now.

What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?

I believe that the solar industry will be a major leader in changing the world and decreasing carbon emissions to offset a large portion of our environmental, or climate change, issues. I believe it will become more affordable, more far reaching, and will supply a number of jobs that are desperately needed. Along with many other technological advances in renewable energy it will help maintain the health of the sea, trees, and us.

What can the average person do to make a difference?

This is a question I ask myself often. I think one of the most important things you can do is eat local food, use energy efficient tech in your home, demand your representatives to focus on climate change issues, and participate in the breakdown of institutional racism within yourself and your immediate community. Get involved in local actions like creek clean ups, watershed issues, and support community centered utilities and renewable energy solutions that serve tenants and homeowners alike.

Green.Org is a television show, podcast, social media, and news platform, hosted by Dylan Welch, that highlights climate change scientists, renewable energy experts, and clean tech entrepreneurs by giving them a voice in the mainstream media. The Green podcast highlights leading experts in cleantech, sustainability, media, finance, and real estate. Tune in and subscribe to the podcast on Apple or Spotify to listen to interviews with leading cleantech and sustainable experts. If you are interested in being featured on Green, click HERE.

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