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Habitat goes solar

Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity was recently awarded $215,880 under the U.S. Department of Agriculture High Energy Cost Grant program.

Kaua‘i Habitat will use the grant for the installation of solar water heating systems and thermal insulation of Habitat-built homes.

“We will be able to install solar water heaters in 37 homes,” Stephen Spears, executive director of Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity, said. “In addition, we will put in insulation that will reduce energy consumption.”

In 2007, the Kaua‘i Habitat’s board of directors created an Energy Efficiency Program in an effort to ensure the installation of solar water heaters on new Habitat homes.

“We have solar water heaters on six homes already and will be retrofitting six already built in ‘Ele‘ele,” Spears said. “We are working on trying to retrofit about 90 homes already built.”

But installing solar water heating isn’t the only step Kaua‘i Habitat is taking to go green.

Spears said the nonprofit is examining the technology for wind and solar and working on grants for next year. Energy-saving lightbulbs are installed in every home, and new homeowners are encouraged to purchase energy-efficient front-loader washing machines.

Whirlpool gives free energy-efficient refrigerators and stoves to every new Habitat home in the country, totaling approximately 80,000 donated units since 1988.

Along with the Kaua‘i Habitat grant, the USDA awarded a total of $19.9 million in grants to 16 other organizations through their High Energy Cost Grant program. About $11 million of that grant money went toward energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

“These grants will help home and business owners offset rising energy costs by financing energy efficiently and infrastructure improvements that are needed to deliver energy in the most cost effective way,” Thomas Dorr, USDA under secretary for rural development, said in a statement.

Kaua‘i Habitat is currently developing the ‘Ele‘ele Iluna Subdivision on 24 acres

Phase I, which consists of 18 lots, is already finished. Phase II will consist of 107 lots and is scheduled to complete the infrastructure in 2009.

Kaua‘i Habitat was founded in 1993 after Hurricane ‘Iniki destroyed the island. Since then, Kaua‘i Habitat has built 95 homes and provided 522 with safe and affordable shelter.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com

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