Holy Cross Education Foundation

It is the mission of Holy Cross Education Foundation to provide funding and administrative assistance to schools that strive to provide the highest quality primary education to children in disadvantage areas. We seek to effectively help prepare students for the challenges of life in the 21st century - spiritually, mentally, morally, emotionally and physically by providing a state-of-the-art educational environment.
Sep 25, 2014

Solar Phase 3 Planning Underway

Power production from Phase 2 array
Power production from Phase 2 array

Greetings ---

Thanks to you, our many donors, our two 5KW solar panel installations are functioning extremely well at Holy Cross Anglican School. Analysis of the power curves being generated by both arrays shows little difference in overall average daily production, which means that the the slight differences in fixed angle-to-zenith (the angle at which the panels are oriented at the time the sun is at peak each day) between the arrays are not significant with respect to total power generated. As school has just returned to session and demands have increased after summer vacation, we will be looking closely at this fall's versus previous fall's power bills from BEL to quantify the savings being realized as a result of the Phase 2 installation.

Having said that, planning for Phase 3 is getting underway. An initial meeting with BRE (Baker Renewable Energy, Raleigh) was held this week and a follow-up, more detailed meeting will be held within the next several weeks. One of the most important items to consider, according to BRE, is the willingness of BEL to continue to allow net-metering, at least with the current breaker configuration at the school. At worst this could force us to install Phase 3 as an off-grid system with battery backups, but we are a long ways away from making that decision. In terms of financing, as of this report date, our base for Phase 3 is $54,670.60 and we have reached a total $63,215.00 for a net of just over $8500.00 toward our Phase 3 goal of about $28,000. I have added a little cushion in our overall funds goal published by the GG project website in order to provide for unforeseen costs, if any occur. As you may have read in earlier reports, we will also be investing in some energy efficiency changes and that may increase the costs somewhat. This means we need to raise about $20K or just a bit more from this date moving forward in order to complete our Phase 3 funding goal.

I have attached a screen capture of the power production curve provided by the real-time Enphase monitoring system for the Phase 2 array, which consists of 20 250W panels. We are looking forward to the upcoming in-depth meetings and will report the outcome of our planning in my next installment. Thank you all, once again, for your continued investment in the lives of the children served by Holy Cross Anglican School.

Jun 25, 2014

Net-metering completes Phase 2: on to Phase 3 starting with Microsoft Youthspark Bonus Day June 25

Phase 2 solar panels looking north
Phase 2 solar panels looking north

In my last report I noted that our second set of 5kW solar panels had been installed and was functioning! However, as of that report, we had been unable to locate the proper bi-directional "net-meter" needed to offset our power bills. I am thrilled to report that, working with Belize Energy and Light, Baker Renewable Energy (BRE) was able to procure and install the needed bi-directional meter. Power being generated by our Phase 2 array is now integrated with the electricity-feed from Belize Energy and Light. This reduces our BEL consumption by the amount we generate locally. And, as mentioned, our analysis shows that overall the school uses substantially more electric energy than these two arrays produce --so that virtually all of the solar power produced is being consumed by the school with nearly no waste. 

Our annual Board meeting is being held at the school in association with graduation weekend, where nearly 40 students will receive the equivalent of 8th grade diplomas. We are very proud of their accomplishments as well as the outstanding efforts of our faculty, staff, and numerous volunteers that make Holy Cross Anglican School possible. At the Board meeting, we are re-affirming our 5-year vision and renewable energy remains high on the priority list: we want the school to become as self-sufficient as possible. It is not possible for very low income families to pay tuitions that would come close to allowing the school to pay the "normal" bills for simply keeping the school's "physical plant" running. In addition to solar power, we have a composting toilet and self-enclosed local water-treatment installation that allows us to recycle "gray" toilet water, saving thousands of dollars in water bills. This is augmented with a rain-water collection system. We are truly committed to renewables.

In Phase 3, we plan on providing a third 5kW solar farm. To prepare for this, a thorough energy audit will be undertaken as well as a review of the breaker/meter capacity. It is possible that some re-wiring may be needed to split the meters that are now there -- and some funds raised here may go to help make that happen. We will keep you posted as our plans take more specific focus. Thus, our project goal has now been raised to $90,000 to account for the new funding that will be needed in Phase 3.

There is no better opportunity to begin our Phase 3 fundraising than on Wednesday, June 25th -- Microsoft Youth Spark Bonus Day. Bonus Money becomes available at Noon EDT on Wednesday, June 25th and will be available until the $$ run out. There are $200,000 in matching funds plus some additional bonus money for qualifying projects. The most important terms and conditions are:

  • Matching is applied at 100% for every donation from $10 up to $1,000 per donor per project until matching funds run out.
  • The project that raises the most funds on Bonus Day will receive an additional $2,500 prize.
  • The project that has the most unique donors on Microsoft YouthSpark’s Bonus Day will receive an additional $2,500 prize.
  • Unique donors are determined using numerous criteria, including name, email address, credit card number, mailing address, and IP address.
  • Fulfillment fee for donations: Global Giving charges a 15% fulfillment fee on donations. The fee will not be applied to matching funds.
  • Only donations made via credit card of PayPal will qualify for the bonus money!

To make a donation, go to: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/electricity-to-500-students-in-belize/ and click the Orange DONATE banner on the right hand side of the page, and follow the instructions. Again, you MUST have an account on Global Giving so that you can either provide your valid Credit Card information or use PayPal.

What an incredible opportunity! Any amount you give up to $1000 will be doubled by YouthSpark, allowing our donations to go much further than they ever have before. Many small donations will make a huge impact -- for example, just 300 donations averaging $50 each will raise most of the funds needed for Phase 3!! And if we have enough unique donors, we could qualify for a $2,500 or even $5,000 prize. Remember, the bonus day begins at Noon!!!

Thank you so much for whatever you feel you can give .... you continue to make a huge difference in the lives of students that are benefitting from an education they could not otherwise receive at Holy Cross Anglican School.

May 5, 2014

Phase 2 Solar Panels Installed and working!!

Phase 2 5KW solar farm -- installed and working!!!
Phase 2 5KW solar farm -- installed and working!!!

Thanks to you, our many donors, our Phase 2, second set of solar panels, have now  been installed by Baker Renewable Energy (BRE, http://bakerrenewable.com/) at Holy Cross Anglican School in San Mateo, Belize. This second set will produce peak 5KW of power generation -- doubling our capacity from 5KW to 10KW.This past week, two BRE technicians spent the week working at Holy Cross Anglican school to afix the new array on roofing sections above the kitchen and lower division classrooms. As shown in the attached picture, the new array features 10 250W panels that are angled toward the east, and 10 that are angled toward the west. This will even out the power distibution curve. Further, the roof-length is long enough that we can, up to a point, simply add-on additional panels without having to implement additional breaker equipment. Since each panel has its own microinverter, a problem with any one panel will not bring down the entire array.

Our recent power consumption analysis showed that we are consuming substantially more energy than these arrays produce -- that is, almost all of the solar-power generated is going to offset our metered power bill, with very little being lost back to the "grid." As noted in my last report, we were very pleased that independent review re-affirmed that our plans to provide a farm generating at least 20KW using panel micro-inverters and net-metering was the best possible for our location.This means that we will be undertaking Phases 3 and 4 projects -- to grow the farm from what is now 10KW to at least 20KW. Further, additional strategies including reducing energy consumption may be adopted -- after a more thorough energy audit is undertaken. You will be hearing more about these in upcoming reports.

I also wanted to keep you apprised of our current funding situation. Firstly, being a MicroSoft YouthSpark project makes a huge difference in our ability to raise funds quickly. For new, recurring donors, the first three months of your donation will be matched 100%. After three months you can opt out as well. Secondly, on bonus days, there is a further YouthSpark Match. The next bonus day is tentatively set for June 25th -- starting at Noon. All donations on that day will be matched at an <additional> 100%.

Secondly, we are within $3000 of balancing our Phase 2 budget, having -- thanks to you -- received ~$2000 in donations since my last report. Interestingly, $3K is just about exactly what was charged at Belizean customs as GST tax on the solar equipment. Unfortunately, this expense was unforeseen -- and will be planned into the budget for Phase 3 if we cannot find a suitable workaround. Nevertheless -- we need to fully balance our Phase 2 budget before we can embark on Phase 3. I will update you again on project status prior to the next YouthSpark Bonus day.

Once again, the children that are benefitting from an education they could not otherwise receive at Holy Cross Anglican School are now more secure in their future as a result of bringing down our school operating costs, while also making a difference for the environment. We are so very thankful to you, our donors, and to BRE for their generous in-kind donations that are making this project happen.

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