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SCU engineering students pose with a GRID Alternatives banner

SCU engineering students pose with a GRID Alternatives banner

A Bright Opportunity

The following was written by Claudia Chen '15 M.S. Sustainable Energy, president and co-founder of SCU's Energy Club.

On a brisk April morning, SCU engineering students gathered on the driveway of an unassuming one-story home in a quiet San Jose neighborhood, ready to tackle a rooftop solar installation. The homeowner and his daughter looked on excitedly as the group went through a safety orientation and began unloading a trailer full of tools and equipment. Throughout the day, the two of them peeked in to assess progress, with the homeowner even joining the team on the roof to really get a good look. His seven-year-old daughter proudly told everyone about the solar cell-powered racecar she had made in school the week before.

The Santa Clara students were working with GRID Alternatives, a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization that aims to bring solar power to low-income households by training community volunteers to install residential rooftop solar systems—a program that underscores the triple bottom line of people, planet, and employment.

Over the course of two days, the SCU team installed an 8-panel, string inverter, 2.5 kW DC/2.4 kW AC system. On the first day, students performed measurements and installed the mounts on the roof—connecting the rails on which the solar panels lay, installing microinverters, starting the conduit run, and doing pre-wiring work. On the second day, the students finished the wiring and conduit run, tested the panels, got the panels to the roof, bonded the panels to the rails on the roof, and made the final system connections and measurements.

The system is projected to save the homeowner $31,000 over its 30-year lifetime and prevent over 130,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions that would be generated by traditional energy sources. An added benefit is the valuable hands-on training the SCU engineering students received. The experience not only offered volunteers an inside look within the solar industry but is an excellent resume-booster as well. The opportunity was coordinated by the Santa Clara University Energy Club. For more details or to be added to the mailing list for future events, contact

Energy, Engineering
07-15 A Bright Opportunity, Energy Club, Claudia Chen

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