DOE breaks ground on first Ka Hei Photovoltaic Projects


The Department begins the energy-generation phase of the Ka Hei program, a multi-year initiative to integrate innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs.

​​​​​The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today held a groundbreaking ceremony at President William McKinley High School to mark the first phase of the renewable energy generation portion of the Ka Hei program​.

McKinley High is one of nine public schools that will receive photovoltaic (PV) panels in the first phase of energy generation tied to the Ka Hei program. 

Launched in 2014, Ka Hei is a five-year initiative to integrate innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs. The PV installations are one of the physical attributes of Ka Hei. The DOE spends approximately $64 million in utility costs a year to power schools and offices statewide. The installation of PV panels and energy efficiency products such as LED lighting will reduce the DOE’s electric costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars in its first year. 

McKinley High will receive 480 PV modules in canopies above the parking lot for an estimated savings of about 186,000 kilowatt-hours per year to reduce the school’s electrical load by about 13 percent.

“Our schools are part of every community in Hawaii, and we believe we should not only be good neighbors, but be good leaders as well,”said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent of the DOE’s Office of School Facilities and Support Services. “This much-needed move to a more sustainable energy source is in line with the effort to cut costs and help our students understand the need to make this world a better place.”

The DOE currently has 56 approved net energy metering agreements with the utility for projects at 51 Oahu schools.

Ka Hei is not just an energy-generating project. It includes integrated lesson plans for students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Twelve schools participated in a pilot curriculum program in the 2014-15 school year. The program will expand after the summer with more than 100 teachers trained and more taking professional development sessions.

“We see this as a hands-on learning opportunity about what students see happening at their campuses,”said Leila Hayashida, assistant superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support. “This program gives our teachers new tools that have the potential to excite students with lessons aligned with our Hawaii Common Core standards.”

“OpTerra is excited to begin construction of Phase I of Ka Hei,”said Brian Kealoha, regional manager, OpTerra Energy Services. “Today’s groundbreaking marks a milestone in creating a sustainable future for Hawaii’s educational system. These improvements combined with our standards-aligned curriculum will provide real world, project-based learning opportunities and perhaps inspire students to pursue careers in energy and sustainability."

More PV projects are preparing to go to bid for installation at schools beginning this summer. 

As a comprehensive energy and sustainability program, Ka Hei will transform the learning environment, reduce operational expenses and provide engaging educational opportunities for our students and community at all of our schools in some capacity.

Contact Information

Donalyn Dela Cruz

Phone: 808-586-3232



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