An aerial view of Niihau Island School shows the school's new solar energy system, at right. The school is the first in Hawaii to be powered entirely by solar energy.
Niihau school proud to charge up
A new photovoltaic system has the school solely on solar power
Niihau Island School has become the first school in Hawaii to be powered entirely by solar energy, Kauai County officials announced.
A 10.4-kilowatt photovoltaic power system was installed at the public school Nov. 30, county spokeswoman Mary Daubert said yesterday.
The privately owned island, roughly 30 miles off the western coast of Kauai, is home to about 160 residents and has just one K-12 school serving about 30 students.
Up until now the public school has relied on generators, making it hard to power refrigerators to store fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, fish and poultry, officials said. Most school meals were prepared from canned and dry goods, and the lack of reliable energy also prevented students from using computers.
The 10.4-kilowatt photovoltaic power system was installed at the public school Nov. 30 and features 80 solar panels.
The new, $207,000 power system consists of 80 solar panels, which face south and are shielded by a rock wall windbreak. It has 72 batteries.
"This project shows that renewable energy self-sufficiency can be achieved in our DOE (Department of Education) schools through the cooperative efforts of community, government and business," said Bruce Robinson, whose family owns the island.
Most of the funds that paid for the system, $150,000, came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, with an additional $32,000 from the county and another $25,000 from the state Education Department. Niihau Ranch also installed wires and donated a concrete pad for the modules as well as the shipping and installation services.
The county will have ownership of the system for about 10 years, and the Education Department will be responsible for maintaining the system.
Other groups that contributed to the system were Seattle-based DPK Inc., Gay & Robinson Inc., Niihau Helicopters Inc., Ron's Electric and Hanalei Solar.