Posted on May 17, 2016

VIDEO: Students Act Locally, Think Globally with Solar Suitcases

By Hailey Wilson

Their futures are so bright they have to wear shades — especially the students involved in PG&E’s Solar Suitcase program.

Several students and teachers who participated in PG&E’s first Solar Suitcase program returned from delivering solar kits to communities in Kenya. Solar Suitcases are small, portable photovoltaic lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate a small room.

Students deliver the suitcases and teach local Kenyans how to use them.

“A solar suitcase is a tool mostly designed to empower a community,” said Salinas High School senior Sierra Hotz. So it can help start small businesses, it can provide light, it can be used in hospitals to power a small vaccine refrigerator.”

Students in the Solar Suitcase program build the Solar Suitcases, which are delivered to energy-poor regions around the world. Students are also invited to submit videos of their own local sustainability projects. Schools with the best projects have the opportunity to send student and teacher representatives to deliver solar suitcases to orphanages, schools and medical clinics in Kenya with international charity Free the Children.

“In October I was sitting in the classroom and we were building these suitcases,” said Connor Schademan, a junior at Inspire School of Arts & Sciences in Chico. “And we know they’re going to go to Africa but we come here today and these people are so happy to have this opportunity, they greet us with a song and a dance, and it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen in the U.S. or almost anywhere else.”

Not only do the students deliver the suitcases, but they also teach local Kenyans on how to use them.

Students in the Solar Suitcase program build the Solar Suitcases, which are delivered to energy-poor regions around the world.

“I’m now a solar expert because I know how to connect the solar,” said, Rosaline, one of the Kenyans who will benefit from a solar suitcase.

The Solar Suitcase is just one example of PG&E’s commitment to STEM education and renewable energy. In fact, PG&E has given $75 million to schools in Northern and Central California over the past decade.

“On behalf of the teachers and the students, we are incredibly grateful to PG&E for giving us this opportunity,  this experience that will be life-changing for most of the students and all the teachers, and hopefully be inspiring to our students back home,” said Philip Deutschle, Salinas High School physics and astronomy instructor.

To learn more about the Solar Suitcase program, visit

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