It started as a dream.
Eric Stikes, his friends and coworkers were working in the for-profit solar industry, conjuring ways to extend their technology to lower and middle class communities and the underserved.
After twenty years of contracting work, Stikes became the cofounder in 2013 of Good Sun, a renewable energy nonprofit. The group maintains 20 core volunteers and Stikes said it expects to hire an employee next month. The cofounder said he also plans to begin small operations in the south Bay Area, using money from their solar panel resale business in Grass Valley to aid the expansion.
“We started with very grassroots efforts,” said Stikes. “Over the years, we’ve been getting more and more organized.”
Good Sun has been busy spearheading projects locally in the county as well as around the globe in poorer areas of Kenya and Uganda.
“We just are compelled to serve the community,” said Stikes, “whether it’s the local community or global community.”
In May, the U.S. Department of Energy recognized a Good Sun team as innovators for its “creative and unique models” in the Solar in Your Community Challenge program. The team opened a solar thrift store (based on Habitat for Humanity stores) where people donate used equipment for tax deductions, which can be resold for other solar projects. About 170 teams from over 40 U.S. states and territories competed.
While the team didn’t win their maximum prize of $100,000, they did receive $50,000 in vouchers to be used on the Department of Energy’s online marketplace in order to pay for services on their ongoing projects.
With that money, the nonprofit was able to advance their renewable energy projects at Bitney Prep High School, Yuba River Charter School, Grass Valley Charter School and Hospitality House.
Although the Yuba River Charter School project’s completion timeline is unknown, work with Grass Valley Charter School is set to be done by January, said Stikes. Hospitality House’s project will start in late September.
The recent accomplishments come as a surprise to Stikes, who, while raising three kids, was recently able to quit his day job and work for the nonprofit full time. The cofounder is also enrolled in a masters program at Harvard University’s School of Extension Studies for Sustainability where he’s working on a thesis pertaining to his nonprofit.
“If you would have told me what I was going to do, I would have said ‘no way,’” said Stikes. The cofounder added that everything has fallen into line as anticipated.
“Things just seem to fall in the place in a serendipitous way that I’ve never experienced in the for-profit world,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email [email protected] or 530-477-4219.