Windward Oahu School Goes Off The Grid

Published On: Aug 25 2011 12:13:33 AM HST   Updated On: Aug 25 2011 01:55:43 AM HST
KAILUA, Hawaii -

Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School is the first public school in the state to be powered by the sun.

A blessing Thursday morning on campus marked the start of a bright future and lower electric bills at the school.

As part of a Lanikai Elementary tradition, the ceremony included a Native Hawaiian chant calling for all to stand up together. For these students are standing up for the environment.

"They energy sources we're using now are polluting the environment and even when we use natural resources, sometimes people are using too much and it's going to go away," said Lanikai Elementary sixth grader Hudson Lockette.

Lanikai Elementary is the first public school on Oahu to secure $500,000 in state funding to build a photovoltaic system that will provide between 80 and 100 percent of the school's electrical needs.

"The photons in the sunlight come down, they hit the solar panels and it converts that into energy," said Kekoa Blair, 11, explaining how the PV system works.

"It goes through a whole bunch of wires and we use it for the lights, we use it for the computers," said sixth-grader Emily Hinrichs.

Each of the 468 panels produces 230 watts of direct power for the school. That equals about four light bulbs.

"That's estimated at about $166 a day or roughly $5,000 a month. So it's going to be a huge savings," said School Director Ed Noh.

A state-of-the-art monitoring system provides real time energy tracking from the PV system.

But this may be the first and last public school to get off the grid for a while, because there is no dedicated source of funding for these types of projects within the Department of Education, according to state Rep. Chris Lee who, along with former state Sen. Fred Hemmings, earmarked the money needed to build the PV system.

The charter school's board fought for over a year to keep the project alive.

"While it was difficult, it was all the people that did come together really made it happen," said Jaime Higgins, Lanikai Elementary school board member.

The school is now looking at other ways to go green.

Aldon Solar and HECO were also partners in building the system.


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