Last fall, Kaunakakai Elementary sixth-grader and Student Council President Leonahemaikekaimalie Crivello wanted to help in the effort to cool more classrooms at her school. A chance meeting with NextEra Energy Hawai'i President Eric Gleason turned into an opportunity to accomplish her goal.
"Leonahe shared with me that she was elected student council president on the promise that she would put air conditioning in every classroom at her school," said Gleason. "We admired her vision and drive, and wanted to do our part to help serve her school and community and make her vision a reality."
Over the past four months, NextEra Energy Hawai'i worked on the project and installed 33 hybrid solar air conditioning (AC) units at Kaunakakai Elementary and Kilohana Elementary schools.
The project was completed last month resulting in the cooling of 14 classrooms in Kaunakakai Elementary and four classrooms in Kilohana Elementary. The project doubled the amount of AC at Kaunakakai Elementary and replaced two older AC units. Kilohana Elementary had one classroom with AC, prior to the additional four installed by NextEra Energy Hawai'i.
A celebration assembly was held Friday, April 8, at Kaunakakai Elementary, where NextEra Energy Hawai'i announced it is donating the devices to the schools.
"The Department is working on cooling hundreds of classrooms using a variety of heat abatement measures and we feel very fortunate to have partners, like NextEra Energy Hawai'i, coming forward to work with us on solution-based actions in reaching our goals," said Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. "What makes this project special is, it is based on student leadership, community involvement and public-private partnership collaboration."
NextEra Energy Hawai'i, in coordination with Maui Electric Company, partnered with HIDOE to determine cooling priorities and potential solutions for Moloka'i. The project aligns with HIDOE's heat abatement program and is based on feedback from the schools' staff, community leaders and members.
NextEra Energy Hawai'i contracted Greenpath Technologies, Inc., a native Hawaiian-owned renewable energy installer, to perform the installation. The company was selected based on its previous work in Moloka'i and experience with installing hybrid solar AC systems in other HIDOE schools, including Campbell and Wai'anae High Schools on O'ahu.
"The hybrid solar technology was chosen for its relatively low consumption of grid-supplied power, which saves on school utility bills and avoids stressing the utility grid," said Gleason. "The solar panels typically can supply up to 90 percent of the required power, with grid-supplied power used as a backup to assist with start-up cooling at the beginning of the school day and also during cloudy days."
There are 298 students enrolled at Kaunakakai Elementary; 80 are enrolled at Kilohana Elementary. In the Fall 2015, Kaunakakai Elementary received four portable AC units, which will now go to another school. For more information about the HIDOE heat abatement program, please visit http://bit.ly/heatabatement.