HDR Foundation Grant: GRID Alternatives

HDR Foundation Grant: GRID Alternatives

HDR employees energizing their community 

Head west on Interstate 70 from Denver. Wind through the Rocky Mountains, past Breckenridge and Vail, through Glenwood Springs and Rifle. After four hours trekking through Colorado's scenic views of national forests and hilly terrain, you'll arrive. "Welcome to Grand Junction." 

Cross into city limits, near Exit 31, and you'll see another sign, this one hanging on a chain-link fence protecting an ongoing construction project. "HDR."

The HDR Foundation has awarded a 2015 large grant, classified as more than $15,000, to GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that makes solar technology and job training accessible to underserved communities. With the grant, the HDR Foundation has been named the title sponsor for the expansion of a solar garden in Grand Junction, Colorado. 

In May 2015, GRID Alternatives Colorado developed the country's first solar garden dedicated exclusively to serving low-income households—29 kilowatts providing electricity for eight local families. With help from the HDR Foundation's grant, the garden has tripled in size, producing 100 kilowatts of power. In all, up to 35 families will benefit from lowered energy bills—saving residents $500 to $600 per year.

The grant's benefits won't stop there. The Green Team from HDR's Denver office, whose members were employee sponsors of the grant, are leading an effort for volunteer work within the Denver community, as well, aimed at helped the city's low-income households. 

"We wanted to work with GRID Alternatives to do some volunteer work with them," said Kira Olson, a marketing coordinator for HDR in Denver. "To do a corporate volunteer work, it was, at least, $5,000, so that's how we decided to go through the grant."

The Denver crew will either do several workday projects installing panels for individual houses, or they'll volunteer on a large commercial-size array as a large group. 

"You start in the morning, installing on the roof, working on ground and spending time with the family," Olson said. "Usually, the family will make a meal, so it's a good way to interact with the people you're helping. With the group efforts, we'd help affordable housing agencies put solar paneling on their building to help local families. They can have up to 100 people working on those projects."

Olson expects 50 or more HDR employees to volunteer for the 2016 projects. 

"It will be a significant help to the low-income families," she said. "The population boom in Denver is really affecting the low-income families, so anything that they can save on their electricity bills will help them a lot." 

Another member of the Denver Green Team, Nidhi Khanna, a senior sustainable consultant with HDR, is excited for the learning opportunity the project presents.

"Working in the energy efficiency field for more than 10 years, I have recommended photovoltaic systems for many projects, but never had the opportunity to actually work on the installation of a PV system, so I am really excited about it," she said. "Through this HDR grant, we hope to use HDR employees and clients for the PV installation project. This will be an excellent team-building exercise and also help in creating awareness for energy efficiency and sustainability in general."

Lily Livingston, a sustainable leader out of HDR's Omaha location, was another employee sponsor of the grant application. She worked in HDR's San Francisco office for nearly two decades, where she also volunteered with Oakland-based GRID Alternatives. Lily, who served on the HDR Foundation Grant Giving Committee for two years, recognized an excellent opportunity for the foundation.

"I feel strongly that GRID Alternatives is a 'sustainable' organization, literally and figuratively. From their community service and their proven success as a nonprofit, they can continually share inspirational ideas, education and resources to the communities they serve."

In all, GRID Alternatives Colorado has developed 90 solar projects saving over 160 Coloradans approximately $2.3 million in electricity cost burden. 

About the HDR Foundation

The HDR Foundation was founded in 2012 and has provided more than half a million dollars in grants to local organizations—fueled by donations from HDR employees. The foundation provides grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal governments, and to political subdivisions, such as school districts or libraries. Our giving is targeted to the communities in which our employees live and work, focusing on the U.S. or organizations that support global initiatives. Grant recipients are also required to align with HDR's areas of focus, which include education, healthcare and healthy communities, and healthy environments.