Today I’m covering the second half of what went on during NC State’s Solar Spring Break 2017!
If you haven’t seen part 1, you should probably read that first to get some context as to why we were in California, who GRID Alternatives is, and, of course, how we spent the first half of spring break!
Go ahead. Click on that link. I’ll wait.
Good? Awesome. Let’s pick up where we left off!
Once again, I did not take every picture posted here. Props to the team for whoever did!
Today was our first install day! A lot of us had been waiting all week for this, knowing we’d get to meet the families, work on the roof, and have more hands-on learning with regards to solar power. I absolutely love construction- the energy, the teamwork, the fluidity, the tangible results- so I definitely felt like I was in my element!
We started off the morning by gearing up for the work day followed by a safety talk.
We would be working on two neighboring houses, so our group of 12 split up into 2 teams of 6 (I don’t know why I felt the need to write that. You can math. Yet I’m not editing it out…?). We didn’t put up the actual solar panels today, but we were able to get the rails and microinverters ready for them. There was all sorts of drilling, hammering, sawing, and material moving going on, it was awesome 😉
Install day two!
We had awesome weather to be out working today- sunny and warm! We were able to start lifting panels and get them up on the roof.
I’m so thankful that we had two days to complete this installation because it allowed us to get more in-depth, detailed lessons from the GRID staff. We were able to slow things down and understand what we were doing and why instead of just blindly following a series of steps, rushing to finish everything in less time.
The end of this second install day was certainly bittersweet. We had to say goodbye to some of the GRID staff we had been working closely with. It also signified the rapidly approaching end of our trip- we only had one day left in California and you better believe we were going to make the most of it!
Despite these endings bouncing around in the back of our minds, we all tried to ignore them for a while longer. We hung around after finishing all construction/install aspects of the day to be able to witness the official activation (for lack of a better word…?) of the panels! It was a great moment and we were really able to appreciate this final time on the job site together. We had a physical representation of everything this solar spring break had been about displayed right in front of us and being able to look up and see two finished solar systems where nothing had previously existed was so rewarding.
What was even more rewarding though was what we found out on Friday in our little discussion session with Luis, from the GRID staff, who had been working with Jackson to make this trip happen! More on that in a second 😉
Thursday night was also one of the best family dinners we had that week. Two of our favorite staffers (let’s be honest though, everyone was our favorite) came over for games and food- we stayed at that table until midnight. This was really a defining moment for us in my opinion and it was a perfect last group meal at the house.
Friday morning, we had to to say goodbye to our beloved country haven home. We packed and cleaned up before piling into the van to head to the GRID office for the last time. We took a ton of group pictures (this one is by far my favorite 😉 )
and helped clean up the backyard a little more before lunch. As I mentioned, we also all sat down with Luis and went over some of the numbers and impacts we experienced over the week. From just the two systems we installed, the families will experience a combined savings of over $83,000 (that’s a 90% offset for their utility costs). As if that wasn’t incredible enough on its own, the systems also have a combined carbon offset of about 172 tons and are equivalent to planting roughly 4,000 trees. This conversation was a perfect way to end our time at the GRID office.
After we said a sad goodbye to the staff left at the office, we once again piled into the van to make our way back up to San Francisco. Before we hit the city, though, we made it a point to touch the Pacific Ocean and stop in Morro Bay for a little while.
I’m usually not a beach person at all but Morro Bay was so much fun! It was absolutely beautiful and I think everyone was just in such a great mood once we reached the sand after being in the van for quite some time.
We took the scenic route up the coast to hopefully make it to Monterey Bay by sunset. It was a gorgeous drive!
Although we were racing the sun and ended up missing it set at the Bay, it was still a pretty night and we had a great time exploring.
Finally, what’s an adventure to the West Coast without trying In-N-Out? We met up with some more regional GRID staff and took up basically an entire side of the restaurant. It was such a fun, casual way to end the night (and the trip as a whole).
We eventually said goodbye to the last of the GRID staff and finished the drive up to San Francisco. We were able to get hotel rooms for this last night so we wouldn’t have to wake up extremely early to catch our flight (because Jackson and Myles are fantastic). We stayed up way too late playing games, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
This was such an amazing last day in California. It was absolutely perfect. As we all sat in one room of the hotel for final logistics and reflection, I was simply flooded with the feeling of community. Our team dynamic was incredible and nothing could have made me okay with leaving all that we had experienced that week to go back to North Carolina.
This was plane day, so not too many updates here. We caught our flight to Denver around 1 in the afternoon, had a brief layover in that airport, and then boarded another plane back to Raleigh, arriving around 11 pm. I hate everything about flying and airports and *ahem big metal deathtraps hurtling through the sky* but hey, we made it, and I would fly across the country with these people any day. 😉
So. Solar Spring Break?
As I’ve been saying ever since I got back to school, this trip was incredible. If you’ve been counting how many times I’ve said “amazing”, “great”, or “incredible” over the past two posts, that’s really equivalent to how many I’ve been dropping in conversation when asked about my break. #noshame
Jackson worked so, so hard to make this trip happen and words simply can’t describe how much we appreciate him.
We left with tons of takeaways from our week in California. Of course, we gained a newfound technical background in solar panels (as basic as my own understanding may be 😉 ) in addition to an increased recognition of renewable energy overall; however, we also gained much, much more than just the “solar” aspect of our solar spring break. We saw more of our country and the people that live in it. We heard their stories. We witnessed their struggles and felt their challenges.
You already know I think the Alternative Service Break program is the best thing ever- this trip just reinforced everything I love about it and more.
ASB is about service (naturally), but it’s also about community. It’s about immersing yourself in a completely different culture, even if you stay domestic. It’s about completely (and I mean completely) changing your view on the world.
Stereotypes are shattered.
Perspectives are broadened.
Minds are opened.
Experiences are shared.
Histories are made.
Bonds are created.
It’s taking the high-dive outside of your comfort zone with a bunch of people you don’t know to a place you’ve never seen.
It’s getting on a plane without fully knowing what you got yourself into.
It’s pushing past any mental obstacles, any anxiety or struggles or hesitations, to make the most of the experience with your team and for your team.
And the best part?
Your team will help you do just that. They will make you a better version of yourself. They will challenge you, they will encourage you, and they will inspire you. Being able to see the passion and excitement in every member of this team made me so happy; they motivated me to be a better student, a better citizen, and overall just a better person.
ASB is family and now so is GRID. Both of my experiences have been construction and home-oriented and both of my teams worked exceptionally well together, but each gave me something a little different from myself that I didn’t know I was missing. I found things I didn’t know I had within me. I talked to people I never could’ve seen myself ever meeting.
And isn’t that one step in making the world a better place?
~ Have you ever done a service trip? How has it changed your life?