By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
CHS students go on roof for solar lessons
Green Tech seniors install solar system on Delhi roof for low income
IMG 4526
Working on a solar panel installation project in Delhi last week were: (in front, left to right), Jose Nunez, Junior Garcia, Abraham Contreras: (in back), Anthony Vasquez, Karelly Barajas, Angel Contreras and Ruben Rosalez. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Ten Ceres High School students spent two days last week atop a Delhi roof learning the real-life experiences of installing a 3,000-watt solar Photovoltaic power system.

The students of the Ceres High School Manufacturing Production & Green Technology Academy were transported to Tierra de Oro Court in Delhi in Merced County to receive instruction on installing solar panels on the roof of a low-income Delhi homeowner. The unit should result in the family having little or no energy costs for their household operation.

It was the school's first installation of the school year.

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 about 140 roofs since 2009. Students help install solar panels which they have learned about in the classroom.

Academy students performed two installations last year and plan to accomplish five this year.

Teacher Chris Van Meter said the seniors of the Academy have been working all year learning about solar panels, wind turbines, hydrogen fuel cells, bio-diesel and ethanol in order to get ready for this project.

"This solar install is part of their senior year where they gain internship experience," said Van Meter. "Throughout the year students work in teams to accomplish project based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles."

Ceres High School Associate Principal Lonnie Cornell said the students work with experts in the field and said the kids love the experience outside the classroom.

Because the seniors' work benefits low-income families, they are deemed as volunteers.

"They are not getting paid but they are learning valuable skills," said Cornell.

"It's a little cold but it's actually pretty fun; we actually learn a lot," said CHS senior Karelly Barajas. "In the chem class we have solar panel trainers but it's not the same at all. It's like more hands-on. It's definitely a lot different than trainers. We're learning how to set up the wires and the wiring thing and how to set up the panels."

The first day of volunteer work started out with a safety talk, including the mandatory wearing of plastic helmets. The students broke up into a ground team to fix the conduit in place to the side of the house, run the wire and set up electrical meter and switch boxes as well as the Grid-Tied Inverter. The roof team set the racking into place as well as set the solar panels into place.

The high school has a goal to have students work on solar installations in Ceres through Turlock Irrigation District. Most of the installation through Grid Alternatives have been done in conjunction with PG&E customers.

The Academy allows CHS students to get out of the traditional classroom setting each day and spend 50 minutes of hands-on learning about manufacturing.

Teacher Chris Van Meter looks at the Academy as a "school within a school" where technical trade skills are taught. Core classes, such as history, English, math and science, are taught.

"It is fairly math intensive," said Van Meter of the Academy.ach mechanical skills, application of academics to the work world and computer aided drafting (CAD). Van Meter said students are learning the development and design process used in manufacturing.

The Academy's green focus has freshmen, sophomores and juniors working on specific projects. Seniors learn how to use wind turbines, work with solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells -- all on a half-million dollars worth of equipment paid for by grants.