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Installing solar power got competitive at the ‘Solar Games’

The San Diego Convention Center hosted a solar energy expo last week that went beyond the typical convention — it included an event that could be called the Olympics of solar installation.

The 2024 Solar Games featured solar energy installation teams from around the country who raced to place their roof panels faster and cleaner than the competition.

“So we have three rounds and it’s single elimination,” said Anna Bautista, coach of an all-woman team called Grid Alternatives.


“We’re competing roof-to-roof," Bautista said. "Each team has 90 minutes to install an array of 10 modules in addition to a battery backup system."

Is solar roof installation a good spectator sport? That’s open to debate.

But Grid Alternatives had a small fan base at the Convention Center that chanted their name as they took to the roof. They went head-to-head, or roof-to-roof, with Northwest Electric and Solar based in Washington state.

Bautista is also the vice president for construction at Grid Alternatives. The company specializes in bringing solar energy to low-income households.

“I think for some teams, they’re here for the money. First prize is $10,000. For us, the most important thing is representation," Bautista said. "We’d love to win and get some money out of this competition but we’re really here to represent all genders in the industry."


Competitors say to win at the solar games you need speed and accuracy.

Gabe von Wellsheim, a coach of the Encinitas-based Aloha Solar Power said it’s a lot like doing a job, except you're using someone else’s tools and you are racing to beat the clock.

“We’re doing racking, rapid shutdown panels, wiring it up, (installing) the battery and hooking it to an inverter. Essentially as quick as we can and safely, and do it per the manufacturer’s specs,” von Wellsheim said.

When the sun went down on the competition, it was Aloha Solar that took the top prize — for the second year in a row.