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Ceres families to have lower power bills thanks to Academy
CHS students perform first ever installation here
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Ceres High School seniors Courtney Adams, Alyssa Godinez, Destiny Adams and Jasmine Meza assisted in the installation of solar panels on a roof of a home in the 2700 block of Casa Verde Drive on Friday. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Installing solar electric systems is nothing new for students in Ceres High School's Manufacturing and Green Technology Academy (MGTA). Since 2013 students have been traveling to install systems in Merced County. For the time ever, the installations took place in Ceres last week.

Teams of seniors were dispatched to a home on Casa Verde and one on Whispering Oak drives in Ceres to give two households a chance to enjoy very low electric rates for many years.

Ceres High School officials have teamed up with Grid Alternatives, a non-profit organization that introduces the benefits of solar technology to low-income communities. The organization has installed solar systems on hundreds of roofs since 2009. Students help install solar panels which they have learned about in the classroom.

"We provide the equipment and construction supervisors and we support the family with financial programs so at the end of the day this family's going to end up getting the system that they're not going to pay anything for," said Tom Esqueda, the regional director of Grid Alternatives of Fresno. "Which is wonderful."

Jeremy and Amanda Rosas, residents of the house on Casa Verde, are appreciative that they qualified for the $15,000 worth of equipment and about $7,500 in installation costs.

"We're pretty happy about it," said Jeremy, whose family has typically paid Turlock Irrigation District bills of $150 to $200 per month.

"It'll be anywhere from $10 to $15 now," said Amanda Rosas, who has lived in the house for a year and a half from Texas.

The Rosas family can expect a 75 to 80 percent savings on their electric bill every month, said Esqueda. He said many families then find a way to ramp up conservation measures to where they are seeing bills that were 95 percent less than previously.

The only cost to the Rosas family was a front-yard tree that had to come down because it would have blocked the sunlight from hitting the panels.

Teacher Trish Byers was overseeing things at Casa Verde where seven girls were either on the roof or on the side yard of the home.

"I wish I had this type of stuff when I was in high school," said Byers. "It just makes learning so much more fun to be able to apply what you're actually doing in the classroom rather than just sitting taking tests all the time."

The four-year Academy program has the freshmen studying dietary, recycling and mechanics. Solar projects come in the junior and senior years.

The kids are learning life skills and hands-on skills to construct solar panels if they decide to do this in the future. It's much more fun being here than in the classroom - but they are definitely are putting to use what they learned in the classroom."

"It's fun," said student Beatriz Jasso. "We've learned a lot. We were talking about that how we should get together and do each other's houses."

The girls found the roof enjoyable but hot.

"It's actually pretty fun," said Courtney Adams.

Destiny Adams said she prefers working on a roof with composition shingles since tile roofs require removal and grinding for the equipment to mount the rails.

At a prior installation this year Miranda Vasquez enjoyed doing the wiring.

"It definitely has been fun," said Vasquez, who is planning to seek her master's degree in Business. "It's really hands on."

The solar panels have a 15-year guarantee and new micro-converters will signal the owner when panels go bad.