WAIMEA — For Mahina Anguay, the installation of solar panels on the roof of Waimea High School is a physical reminder of sustainability.
“The rooftop solar plays into being responsible for the environment and that our resources are limited,” said the WHS principal.
By the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, WHS, along with eight other Kauai schools, will have rooftop solar installed, made possible by a partnership between the Hawaii Department of Education and BioStar Renewables, a Missouri-based energy investment firm.
The project, which aims to help the DOE reach its goal to reduce fossil fuel reliance by 90 percent by 2040, was about three years in the making, Anguay said. It is financed through a recent extension of the federal tax credit for solar installation and credit through the Market of Renewable Energy and the State of Hawaii, the release said.
Fourteen schools across the state are participating in the $2.9 million project, which will provide almost 2.4 megawatts of power statewide, the release said.
HIDOE spends about $48 million a year in utility costs, said Brent Suyama, a HIDOE spokesman.
On Kauai, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Hanalei Elementary School, Kalaheo Elementary School, Kapaa High School, Kapaa Elementary School, Kilauea Elementary School and Waimea Canyon Middle School already have or will have solar panels installed as part of the plan.
Schools on Kauai were chosen because officials believed they would be able to pursue a partnership with Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Suyama said.
“Kauai wasn’t singled out to do it,” he said. “But it was a good fit because, since KIUC is a cooperative, their business model is different, and they were open to partnering with us.”
Schools on the other islands go through Hawaii Electric, he said.
On Kauai, the HIDOE pays between $161,000 and $204,000 per month in electricity, he said. The solar panels are expected to reduce that.
Additionally, the solar panels will save nearly 4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, said Laura Lockton Van Meter, marketing director for BioStar Renewables. The panels will also save nearly 3 million pounds of coal, she added.
Under the agreement with BioStar, Kauai schools will pay about 19 cents per kilowatt, Suyama said.
The solar installation project has no connection to adding air conditioning in the schools, he said.
“One does not mean the other,” he said.
But Kekaha Elementary, which will not be getting solar panels next year, is currently be evaluated to get air conditioning installed in some of the classrooms, Suyama said.