Schools to use power produced by solar panels

HONOLULU — A $5 million pilot program to determine the wisdom of installing solar panel systems in island public schools is set to begin next month.

Photovoltaic systems will be installed in at least one school in each of the four counties, as part of the effort to increase Hawai‘i’s energy self-sufficiency, state officials said Wednesday.

The Department of Education is to rate all schools to determine the best locations to install the systems.

Solar mapping, area electricity rates and scheduled maintenance will be taken into consideration.

The solar energy panels are expected to lower the use of power from electrical grids, according to the officials, who also expect surplus energy to be fed back into the grids during such times as weekends, holidays and summer breaks.

“Using solar energy to supply power to our schools is an innovative solution to one of the challenges in our school system,” Gov. Linda Lingle said in a news release announcing release of the funding. “The high cost of powering our school buildings is a major burden for our state, and I am encouraged that the Legislature funded this program to use alternative energy sources such as the solar panel systems.

Lingle said the efforts will help decrease Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and will help reach the goal of having 20 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by the 2020.

Construction for the two-year project is expected to be completed in June 2008.

At the end of the project, education officials will look at whether the program has been cost effective and will determine whether to install more solar panels schools across the state.


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