State plugging into solar schools

State plugging into solar schools
Published: Nov. 15, 2012 at 8:54 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2012 at 1:51 AM HST
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Gary Harada
Gary Harada
Kathryn Matayoshi
Kathryn Matayoshi

KAIMUKI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Kaimuki High School, 558 photovoltaic panels harness energy from the sun. They were installed in May as part of the Department of Education's five-year plan to dramatically reduce its energy bill.

"We're one of the pilot schools to implement this project," vice principal Gary Harada said.

Kaimuki, Aiea, Kahuku, Waianae, Radford and Moanalua high schools now have photovoltaic. Eventually all 256 public schools in the state will be powered by PV panels. Hawaii Pacific Solar company is contracted to do the first 49.

"They carry the cost of installation, of maintenance, which is great for us. We pay a lower price for the power than what we would pay Hawaiian Electric Company for the power off their grid," state school Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said.

The estimated savings over 20 years for the six high schools tops $7 million. Savings are already showing up on Kaimuki's electric bill.

"Kaimuki High School itself has saved over $16,000 from May to this point," Harada said.

"As the oil prices rise and the price of power goes up, we've had to ask for additional funding," Matayoshi said. "So certainly we want to eliminate that kind of an addition. But we'd also like to bring the dollars down."

The PV system includes a computer component in the library. At a glance students see how much power's being generated by the panels and how much energy the campus is conserving.

"A lot of the teachers will come down if they're doing particular parts of lessons, whether it's math lessons or science lessons. It's a good tool for them to look at and to use," Harada said.

Eventually, the dollars DOE saves on electricity could pay for school repairs or other needs. But that's long range. The first step was getting the ambitious photovoltaic project off the ground.

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