Solar is a great investment. At the end of 2020, Congress approved an economic stimulus package for...
Why Getting Involved Keeps Us Humble
In 2020 Arizona Energy Pros partnered with GivePower to support the construction of GivePower’s innovative Solar Water Farms™. Each farm can provide up to 35,000 people with safe drinking water every day using solar energy and battery storage. Giving people access to healthy water for their families supports better nutrition, reduces violence, improves school attendance and productivity, and supports local economic development. We had the opportunity to speak with Aparna Mohla, VP of Corporate Partnerships about GivePower and what it means to partner with them.
Q. Hi Aparna, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Let’s start with a little about you and how your role at GivePower.
A. Thank you, Kasia. Of course, I get the opportunity to work with amazing residential solar organizations like AE Pros every day and be able to do good and bring the mission of GivePower to reality. I deal with a lot of fundraising and donor relationships.
Q. Can you please tell me a little bit about the mission of GivePower?
A. GivePower is a 501c3 that was born with the mission to electrify the world. Our goal was to take renewable clean solar energy across the United States to underdeveloped nations where people live in the dark and to give them the gift of light. We have put solar on over 2,500 projects across 24 countries. We’ve installed 35 microgrids and as of last year, we’ve cumulatively impacted 650,000 people’s lives.
Q. That is amazing. Can you tell me a little about the origin of GivePower?
A. In 2014 GivePower started as a giving back corporate social responsibility for a solar company named Solar City. It was a program that said that for every megawatt or residential solar deployed in the U.S. Solar City would install a solar system in a school in an underdeveloped part of the world, where there was no light.
In 2016 it spun out to be its own entity after Solar City was purchased by Tesla and now has 105 companies participating. What started out as ‘Let’s go electrify the world,’ has morphed into much more than just lighting up people’s lives. The pivot in our story happened when we realized there is another issue, outside of electricity, the access to clean water. That is why in 2018 we pivoted in our mission and in addition to electrifying the world we now focus very heavily on water purification.
Currently, 1.4 billion people on this planet live without water. The solar water farm was born where clean energy and solar powers the access to clean drinking water. AE Pros is a part of that solution, and you are our biggest champions. In under a year, Arizona Energy Pros has provided 2,500 people with 20 years of clean drinking water that is powered by clean solar energy.
Rusty and Amanda’s hearts are so big. They are so generous, so kind, and so committed to making a difference in the world. When I met them for the first time and introduced them to the Give Partners Program they didn’t even blink. They both knew exactly what they were going to do and wanted to start right away.
A. GivePower’s single largest donor is a fintech company called GoodLeap. For every single loan whether it’s on the mortgage, solar or home improvement side, they donate $20. That may seem small, but it all adds up. GoodLeap covers all the operating overhead expenses. Essentially because of GoodLeap every donor, such as AE Pros, 100 percent of the donation goes directly to the project.
I was introduced to Amanda and Rusty by GoodLeap. Their representative reached out to me and said, ‘I have the best account for you, you will love these people and I want to introduce you to them.’ And when we met, he was absolutely right, we became more than a partnership, but a friendship was born.
Q. That’s amazing that he was able to link you up together.Can we talk a little about the most exciting things now? How do you pick the villages to travel to?
A. From a solar water farm perspective, we are huge in Kenya. It is the largest country by far. Haiti comes in second, and then our track programs are running in Columbia and Nepal. There is a rigorous process that is all about scouting. It’s important to note that in every country that GivePower goes into, we form a subsidiary in that country. We hire full-time employees to help and figure out if there is a large need. Second, we determine if the village or area is the right area for us to deploy a solar water farm. Once everything lines up, we must check the quality of the water we have to work with. There’s a lot of work that goes into these projects.
Q. Can you explain how a company, such as Arizona Energy Pros, can help and travel to a country, such as Columbia?
A. This is the exciting part, Kasia. There is a rigorous process before the organization or company takes a team of 10 and goes to the chosen country. Six months before the actual track, the funds need to be received, the total donations. Hayley and I do the forecasting and we figure out when the donors reach their tracks. We then present all dates and countries that are available and allow leadership to pick where they will be traveling to.
Ten isn’t that many people so leaders have to figure out how to choose the team that will be going on the track. Sometimes companies hold a contest, sometimes they do a raffle, and other times they do a vote or write an essay about why they should be going on this life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Once the 10 people are chosen we get the solar company over to our Track Team. Everything leading up to the track and the actual six days in the country is managed by that team. There are multiple milestones to hit before departure. Before 60 to 90 days we need all the trackers’ names so we can give them access to the portal and upload passports, get a list of vaccinations to be taken, they get details on what village or what project they will be executing. Then 45 days before a track we host a mandatory training session where they get to meet the in-country team that will greet them at the airport. Everyone gets really excited about this one-hour call. This is the time when everyone gets walked through all the dos and don’ts, what to bring, what not to bring, and answer questions trackers may have.
A. I’m not going to lie. Living conditions are hard. Trackers really have to get that into their heads before arriving. Trackers will be living without electricity and sleeping in hammocks. Some people back out, and that’s why we recommend having two to three backups to fill in, in case it’s too intense for people once they go through the orientation.
Because everyone taken is a volunteer we make sure to take them to a part of the country that is extremely safe. We want to make sure the 10 people that are coming feel comfortable. They still get a taste of the biodiversity within the country and get to enjoy the cultural exchange. We want them to soak in the six days that they are in the country. Our track team researches and scouts all these places before the volunteers visit.
Q. I think one of the coolest things is that you are giving locals jobs and opportunities for advancement. Can you talk a little about that?
A. You are so right Kasia, it’s not just the direct impact that GivePower provides clean water or electricity. Think about the indirect impact. When we come to a village, we hire people. Livelihoods are impacted. We hire local people to run, operate and maintain these farms. They can break free from the life they were born into. We have women, like Ruti and Gloria who are rockstars, growing and running multiple sites and teams. That’s what fires me up daily. The impact that we are having. Our donors get fired up when they hear about this.
Q. For those thinking about getting involved, what would you say to them?
A. Please, with utmost humility and folded hands, kindly come join the charge with GivePower. We can only be as good, strong, and powerful as our donors are. Yes, we have an amazing mission but every dollar, every leader, and every individual that makes an impact joins us is the reason our mission is alive today. Nothing would be possible without our donors like AE Pros and other solar companies.
It’s one thing for me to say how it is, and to live it. I went to Columbia in 2021 and it was life-changing. You’ll be with an indigenous community that has no electricity. It is sun up to sun down. What is beautiful, with your bare hands and full hearts, you’ll be directed to dig, trench, wire, paint, and install a ground-mounted solar array system that will bring electricity for the first time to that village. I went in thinking I’m going to give them something and realized they gave me so much more than I could have ever imagined giving them. They had nothing, yet they had everything. What little they had, they shared with us.