Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced today a $260,000 sponsorship that will put more than 100 portable solar power kits into the hands of local high school students through the company’s Better Together Giving Program. Not only will students build portable solar units, they will also participate in local sustainability projects and have a chance to make a global impact by distributing solar kits to certain countries in Africa, Haiti and other energy-poor regions of the world.
The kits, called We Share Solar Suitcases®, are small, portable photovoltaic lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate a small room. PG&E will provide more than 100 of them to high schools in Northern and Central California, supplied by the nonprofit, We Care Solar. The schools who receive the kits will be trained to use them by We Care Solar and will learn firsthand the basic principles of producing clean energy.
Students will then be invited to submit videos of their own local sustainability projects. Winning schools will choose student and teacher representatives to deliver solar suitcases to orphanages, schools and medical clinics in Kenya with international charity Free the Children. Additional suitcases will be sent to energy-poor regions around the world.
“I love how this program combines clean-energy education and empowers young people with a spirit of community service. It’s about instilling the value of acting locally and thinking globally and showing young people that they have the power to make a difference,” said Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president, External Affairs and Public Policy.
Following a successful first year for the program in 2015, PG&E is providing more Solar Suitcases per school this year, delivering them to more countries in need and expanding the energy training that students will provide to recipients during their humanitarian delivery trip to Kenya.
“It is the goal of this partnership to encourage global connections and to promote the solar energy literacy of students everywhere—here in California and in Kenya,” said Hal Aronson, co-founder and co-director for We Care Solar.
This Solar Suitcase collaboration adds a global dimension to PG&E’s commitment to STEM education and renewable energy. In total, PG&E has given $75 million to educational initiatives in Northern and Central California over the past decade.
“Last October, I was sitting in the classroom and we were building these Solar Suitcases. We knew the suitcases were going to go to Africa, but getting to see them in Kenya and seeing the people so happy to have this opportunity that they greeted us with a song and dance—it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the U.S. or anywhere else,” said high school junior Connor Schademan, one of the students who traveled to Kenya as part of last year’s program.
PG&E’s broader Better Together Giving Program further demonstrates the company’s commitment to building a better future together. With a focus on education, economic vitality, the environment and emergency preparedness, PG&E is aligning charitable resources with the company’s values. Working closely with local community organizations, PG&E is helping to create a strong, resilient and sustainable California. Community investments are funded entirely by the company’s shareholders.
Schools interested in participating in the program can apply now through May 31, 2016.
Learn more about the Solar Suitcase program by watching this cool video!