Dr. Karina Garbesi

California State University, East Bay

Dr. Karina Garbesi

Dr. Karina Garbesi co-founded the award-winning Social Impact Solar Program (SIS) to engage California State University students in the work she discovered as co-founder and member of the Board of the United Nations award winning non-profit, We Care Solar (WSC): sharing solar energy and light to alleviate energy poverty and empower communities.  Now shared with five CSU campuses, SIS engages university students in creating a more sustainable and socially just world through hands-on classes centered on building rugged off-grid solar power and lighting systems designed to alleviate energy poverty  (We Share Solar Suitcases). Age-appropriate curriculum is shared with CSU campuses and local low-income schools, creating mutually-supporting learning communities.  With CSU faculty supporting local teachers, and university students working alongside school children, SIS lays the foundations for equal access to sustainable solar energy careers, engaging students in learning and sustainability with a diversity of voices, to help California achieve its ambitious climate protection goals. 

SIS not only motivates STEM learning with a powerful human purpose, it engages students directly in altruistic action.  Positive direct action engenders hope; hands-on work with tangible results empowers; the combination is joyously addictive. The SIS program engages CSU students in altruistic action in many ways:

  • CSU students share their knowledge and experience with the school children, deepening the educational experience for all students, and providing a near-peer bridge to higher education for low-income students under-represented in STEM.
  • CSU students help install grid-connected solar energy systems in low-income communities, through a partnership with Grid Alternatives
  • CSU students alleviate energy poverty when Solar Suitcases built in the Workshops are quality assured and installed in schools, orphanages, and refugee centers in energy-poor communities around the world.
  • CSU students participate in a week-long workshop on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Located in Northern California, between 25% and 40% of the Hoopa Valley High School students lack electricity in their homes.  The Workshop brought CSU students together with tribal youth and national Native American youth leadership teachers from across the country to explore tribal empowerment through solar energy capacity building.  SIS is also facilitating a Solar Suitcase case loan program for the homes of high school students that lack electricity.

Throughout her career Garbesi has involved her students in projects to improve the environmental sustainability and social justice–on campus, locally, and globally—while honing their skills needed to become effective actors.  Examples include:

  • In her senior seminar classes, Cal State East Bay students conducted preliminary research for the University's Climate Action Plan, as did an earlier class for its baseline Greenhouse Gas Inventory
  • Her CSU Masters' students:
    • conducted the wind energy assessment that lead to the installation of the first utility-scale wind turbines in Eritrea
    • conducted the energy and environmental impact analysis that was instrumental in defeating power plant and transmission line facilities in the Bay View Hunter's Point area of San Francisco
    • conducted field studies evaluating community participation and women's roles in microhydro projects in Orrisa, India
    • evaluated United States low-income energy efficiency programs
    • examined Hazardous Materials Regulation and Small Business Compliance in Santa Clara County.

Garbesi believes it is a moral imperative to arm our graduates, not only with knowledge, but with optimism and generosity of heart, in this time when society in general, and our students in particular, live, increasingly, in terror of a bleak future of rapidly escalating environmental crisis, inequality, and social breakdown.  We must defeat hopelessness, disempowerment, and paralysis with tangible action toward a highly desirable and clearly viable future. Our common future depends on our graduates seeing themselves as warriors of the common good.


  • Jonathan Bloom: "Hayward students invention will help power schools in Africa," ABC7 News. February 10, 2017. [Note that the attribution of the student invention
  • Trees Water and People, "Hoopa Valley Solar Warrior Workshop", July 2018, YouTube.

Publications with Students

  • K Garbesi, J. Buckholz, B. Meleg, Cal State East Bay Climate Action Plan 2018, April 30, 2018. 113 pages. (online)
  • Buckholz, J. and K. Garbesi, Academic Year 2013/2014 Greenhouse Gas Inventory. California State University, East Bay, December 15, 2015.
  • V. Vossos, K. Garbesi, and H. Shen. (2014) "Energy Savings from Direct DC in U.S. Residential Buildings." Energy and Buildings, 68(2014) 223-231. Available online: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378778813005720
  • K Garbesi, Brian F.Gerke, Andrea L. Alstone, Barbara Atkinson, Alex J. Valenti, and Vagelis Vossos, "Energy-Efficient Lighting Technologies and Their Applications in the Residential and Commercial Sectors", Chapter 25 in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Handbook,Second Edition" Edited by D. Yogi Goswami and Frank Kreith. CRC Press. 2015, pp 629 – 659.
  • K. Garbesi and E. Bartholomew, The Potential for Solar Electricity Generation in San Francisco, A Report to the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic of Golden Gate University Law School, July 1, 2001.
  • C. Green and K. Garbesi, The Potential to Reduce The City of San Francisco's Electricity Demand through Implementation of Commercially Available Energy Efficient Technologies, A Report to the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic of Golden Gate University Law School, July 1, 2001.
  • K. Rosen, R. Van Buskirk, and K. Garbesi (1999) "Wind Energy Potential of Coastal Eritrea: An Analysis of Sparse Wind Data", Solar Energy, 66:3, 201-213.
  • K. Garbesi and T. Patane (1999) "Improving Hazardous Materials Handling Compliance through Education: A Silicon Valley Case Study", EM Magazine, September, 13 –17.
  • R. Van Buskirk, K. Garbesi, K. Rosen (1998) "Wind Resource Assessment of Eritrea, Africa: Preliminary Results and Status", Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, 74–76, 365–374.