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'Look At All These Women': Solar Panel Installation Encourages Women In Technical Fields

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 100 women from around the country got a look at the rapidly growing clean energy industry. On Friday and Saturday, teams of all-woman volunteers installed solar panels on the roof of a soon-to-be opened apartment building near 14th and Clay in Lakewood.

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(credit: CBS)

The project, which included installing a 40-kilowatt solar system, was all part of GRID Alternatives Colorado's' 4th annual We Build Installation. The event is part of GRID's Women in Solar program, which aims to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar industry by providing pathways to technical careers for women.

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Women help install solar panels on an apartment building as part of a GRID Alternatives program. (credit: CBS)

On Saturday, one of the 40 women volunteering was Denise Lenahan, a Mountain Ute Tribe member from Dolores.

"There's nothing that I haven't liked about this whole thing," Lenahan said. "It's great."

Months ago, Lenahan left her job at a casino after undergoing open heart surgery. Unsure of her next move, she interned on a similar solar project with GRID.

"The field is so open and I'm excited because this might be something that I really could be a part of and do," She said. "I like the installations and I like building it."

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(credit: CBS)

According to the Solar Foundation's Solar Industry Diversity Study, women continue to be underrepresented in the solar industry. GRID's Women in Solar program aims to help participants gain hands-on solar installation experience while working alongside other women of varying experience levels.

"The clean energy industry is still mostly dominated by men, so as women gain more entry into the clean energy industry, they'll need more support and more voices at the table," said Adrienne Dorsey, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Colorado.

The solar panels, installed by volunteers this week, will help offset energy costs for the eventual tenants of the Flats at Two Creeks apartment building, a new complex built by nonprofit, Archway Housing & Services. A quarter of the 78 units will be set aside for low income and formerly homeless veterans.

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(credit: CBS)

"The array that we're installing today will offset the electricity used by this building," said Dorsey. "Over the life of the system, it will save about $243,000 in energy costs for the building that then can be passed to the tenants living here."

For Lehnahan and other volunteers, the installation was a chance to help out an under-served community, all while getting a preview of a potential new career.

"Don't think you're boxed in to a certain lifestyle and that you can't step outside your comfort zone and make a career change," Lehnahan said. "Because, look at all these women."

Archway Housing & Services is currently taking applications for tenants and plan to open the building in December.

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