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Students Install Energy-Saving Systems For Butte, Glenn Families

Becca Russell
GRID Alternatives


While most Bostonians battled the cold last week, a group of Northeastern University students headed to Chico to enjoy the warm sunny weather and to help harness it too.

Thursday, March 12: The Ortizs’ roof is covered with half a dozen students from Northeastern University who are busily drilling flat square pieces of metal to many of the roofs’ shingles.    

The metal pieces called flashings will eventually help to secure 16 solar panels the students are installing as part of Grid Alternatives’ Solar Spring Break

GRID Alternatives is a national nonprofit that trains and leads volunteers to install solar in underserved communities. It launched its student spring break program last year, which specifically trains college students in solar electric systems installation for one week during spring break. 

This year eight colleges participated in the program with the students from Northeastern University working with GRID Alternatives North Valley in Chico. 

According to Becca Russell, development coordinator at GRID Alternatives North Valley, during their weeklong stay the students worked on two solar projects: an installation in Hamilton City and an installation in the Mulberry neighborhood of Chico. Russell said the 16-panel installation in Chico was 3.5 kilowatts.

“That should prevent 91 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of the system,” Russell said. “And also save the family over $30,000.”

Russell says so far GRID Alternatives North Valley has installed 1.2 megawatts of solar energy for 320 North State families, translating into over $10 million in energy cost savings.