On average, the United States enjoys 205 sunny days per year. Make that 271 days in Fresno, Calif.
“It’s a good place for solar panels. The weather is perfect for a sustainable source of energy,” said Robin MacDonald, a freshman majoring in civil and environmental engineering
and music composition at Rice University, who spent much of her spring break on the roofs of houses in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Solar Spring Break program is organized by GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization based in Oakland, Calif., dedicated to “a successful transition to clean, renewable energy that includes everyone.”
Ten members of the Rice student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), all freshman and sophomores, spent March 10-15 in Fresno, installing solar panels on two low-income, single-family houses.
“The panels on just those two houses will generate a lifetime savings of $15,700 and keep over 41 tons of accumulated greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere,” Hazel Scott said. “What we’re doing is not just an engineering issue; it’s a humanitarian, socio-economic issue also.”
The other Rice students who took part in Solar Spring Break were Leslie Arrazolo, Kianna Broadman, Katherine Custer, Katie DeSpain, Alyssa Jordan, Miguel Martinez, Hannah Meeks and Shreya Menon. The group also visited the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project on the upper San Joaquin River system in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central California.
“We got to see some of the bigger picture, the corporate side of energy,” MacDonald said. “Being exposed to private-sector renewables was an extremely valuable experience.” MacDonald and Scott both hope to eventually work in the field of renewable energy.
Funding for the Fresno visit was provided by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, Rice Engineering Alumni and the student chapter of ASCE.