By Raghu Belur, cofounder and vice president of products and strategic initiatives at Enphase Energy
Few people are more passionate about the power of solar to change lives than Erica Mackie, cofounder and CEO of GRID Alternatives—the largest nonprofit solar installer in the country. Her enthusiastic efforts to deploy solar in low-income and underserved communities and to provide solar training to members of those communities has positively affected the lives of thousands of people since GRID began in 2001.
Erica has been working to improve the lives of the less fortunate her entire adult life. Such deep commitment to social and environmental justice underpins GRID’s philosophy. She sees solar as a force for social good, a way to ease the energy cost burden on those who spend a big part of their income on their utility bills and an opportunity to improve the quality of life in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
As an engineer, Erica is not content to just stay in the office. You’ll often find her up on the roof of a GRID project, intensely focused on installing panels and microinverters, getting her hands dirty with a big grin on her face. She’d rather wear a hard hat and work clothes than buttoned-down business attire. Many of us at Enphase have witnessed Erica’s enthusiasm first hand, as we have volunteered our time on GRID projects and donated many megawatts worth of gear to the cause.
Erica and the GRID team are just getting started. What began as a small non-profit based in the Bay Area has expanded to several more states and even into Nicaragua and Nepal. Erica sees a tremendous opportunity to deploy solar and create jobs across the millions of affordable-housing units and low-income owner-occupied households in the United States. The rise of community solar also presents a thrilling opportunity to deliver solar power to underserved areas, and I expect Erica and GRID to take full advantage of it.