This post was contributed by GCF Alumnus Keith Ford, currently an Energy Efficiency Apprentice at GCF EmPower Program and a student at Queensborough Community College.
I have had an amazing week training with Grid Alternatives Tri-State. It began with meeting my fellow Green City Force alumni Krystal Ruiz, and the rest of her staff team at their warehouse location in the Bronx. It was a classroom setting, where we managed to get some interesting technical information on solar panels & installation. For two days of academic/semi-technical training, I have learned that there is a lot of science behind the installation of solar. For instance, there is a tool called “the shade tool.” It’s used to determine how much sunlight will touch the roof over an annual period. In order to get an accurate reading one must be facing south and the device must be leveled out. A picture is taken from the device which has a view field of 180 degrees. That picture gives you a skyline view via GPS and shows the times of day that will be brightest on the location, or if any shade will be present due to clouds.
We also ran a mock trial of what it would be like on a roof during the install. I thought that part of the training was the perfect model to practice safety. We each put on a body harness and were attached to an anchor. There was a perimeter drawn out on the ground to match the roof where we would be scheduled to do the install. The staff gave us valuable information in regards to how far one could move while on the roof and how to manage the rope that one is hooked up to. The most important rule that I learned was the “respect for 30”. One is only allowed to move 30 degrees to the left or right of the anchor, beyond that would mean that the person is out of their safe zone and is a high risk for themselves and the rest of the team.
Although, learning in the classroom setting was amazing,. I found the real challenge to be in the field. We traveled to highlands New Jersey to do the install. Upon arrival I was so eager to climb atop the roof and get to work. The staff gave us a safety talk before setting up all the equipment, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting to the hands on work experience. We helped set up the ladder, harnessed up and put on our hard hats. The staff went up on the roof first to set up the anchors and ropes for safety. Afterwards, it was my time to shine. I was the first Alumni trainee to climb up the ladder to be atop the roof. I became overwhelmed with fear as I felt the ladder shake, the staff told us that it’s naturally supposed to shake. I eventually made it to the top of the ladder where I met the staff team and they hooked me onto a rope. Insuring that I was secure, the staff instructed me to climb onto the roof from the ladder. As I got off the ladder, I noticed the view and it was fascinating. After some time has passed we managed to install the rails, trunk cables and the micro inverters. Meanwhile the ground team had already installed and wired the switch box to the electric panel box. All of this was accomplished during day one, day two was the actual install of the solar panels.
We began our second day with the safety talk before set up and got back to work. The ground team bent and cut conduit pipes to feed the cables up to the roof for the roof team to wire up the junction box. That task was mine after we successfully installed most of the panels. I wired up the junction box as Krystal guided me through the process, I began thinking about how the training connected with my work at GCF EmPower Apprenticeship Program. I realized that both took a great deal of focus and attention to detail in order to perform efficiently. I also remembered how it linked to my time as a Corps Member, During service it was also the ability to conduct oneself in a professional manner that lead to an efficient performance. The relationship between all three made me realize that I have grown significantly from my time as a Corps Member up until this point. Finally, we managed to finish the install. The team celebrated a job well done, I began pondering on how I could use the knowledge I have learned about solar and bring it to my career goal of Architecture. Perhaps establishing a relationship between the Architectural firms and solar panel companies with a singular mission, to build sustainable housing. I would like to build on that idea someday. Overall I had a marvelous time at my training.