KILAUEA — It was around this time in 2015 when Daniel Plunkett couldn’t stand watching his students sweat in the classroom.
“It’s very distracting and hard to focus if you’re too hot,” said the principal at Kauai Christian Academy.
He and his staff brainstormed ideas to cool off classrooms and a light bulb went off: Solar voltaic panels.
“I like the idea of solar air conditioning, it makes a lot of sense, especially for a school,” Plunkett said.
By installing solar panels, Kauai Christian Academy will be able to provide air conditioning for students while at a reduced cost.
“You’re in school during the day when you’re able to make use of the solar part of it unlike at home because you’re inside in the evening and with a solar air conditioner, you wouldn’t be using the solar part of it,” he said.
Plunkett said the school paid $10,000 upfront, assisted by a donation from the Atherton Family Foundation. The total cost for the school will be around $70,000.
“It’s basically like an equipment lease, and we’ll make payments for 10 years and then buy it at a fair market value afterwards for about $10,000,” Plunkett said. “And these panels will still be working at pretty close to peak efficiency. And after that, we’ll be getting the electricity for basically nothing.”
The plan also eases strain on the environment, said Jimmy Johnson, school board president.
“We just wanted to have a smaller footprint environmentally,” he said. “The main use, obviously, is to save money in the long haul, but with the added bonus of providing air conditioning.”
The panels are still being installed but Plunkett said he hopes the panels will allow the school to be less reliant on KIUC.
“What I don’t know yet until it’s been switched on and working for awhile is will it really completely replace our normal electric usage,” he said. “We weren’t planning on it initially, but it just made sense because the monthly cost will be less than our current electric bill.”
“If it all works the way it’s supposed to, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” he added.