Provide electricity to 500 students in Belize

 
$67,508 $22,492
Raised Remaining
HCAS Graduation 2015
HCAS Graduation 2015

Greetings!!

I know it has been awhile since I have posted a report -- my apologies. However, we have been very busy with continued planning for our Phase 3 solar project, having made two site visits since the last report -- I just returned from the latest one a couple of days ago, and wanted to wait to post this report until I returned.

The first visit was conducted March 23-27. As part of that visit, I took care to review the funcationality of our two existing 5KW solar arrays that you have so graciously made possible. It turned out that our software reporting systems were down on both arrays, meaning that we could not get current power production statistics. One "Envoy" was offline due to a rat that had eaten through an internet cable, and that was fixed shortly after my return. Back online, this system is reporting full functionality on the newer array --- noting that the reporting systems only monitor power production and do not affect it if they go offline. So, there has been no service interruption on the newer array. The older "Envoy" system had gone down as well, but due to power variability in the wall outlet. This was fixed by finding a more stable source of power -- it is now showing that we have at least one bad microinverter on the older system - so most likely one panel out of the 20 in this array is not providing the power it should.

Upon my return from the first site visit I met with Baker Renewable Energy to discuss strategy to provide for more efficient ways to troubleshoot and repair problems when we are not at the school. We decided that when BRE makes their next visit to finalize the design for Phase 3, they would bring a set of microinverter spares to have on hand. I also contacted a local supplier that is willing to act as a liaison and volunteer his time to do troubleshooting as well as get trained by Baker to make repairs if and when needed. So I think we have a solid plan to improve our ability to respond to issues with the system.

The Baker meetings were excellent. They are going to get back on site in September and finish their engineering design for Phase 3 (more on this below).

This past week I returned to the site to participate in school graduation (8th grade) and our annual Board meeting.The first picture attached shows part of our 30+ students that graduated. Only one student could not graduate due to failing the national exam -- all others passed! The first picture below is from the graduation ceremony.

The Board is focused on long range strategic planning and have engaged the mayor and other local officials as part of the process. We are currently looking at -- most likely --- doubling the size of the school over the next five years to include the addition of more grade school classrooms, a vocational high school, and a chapel/rectory. The second picture shows board members in the school library discussing our long-range expansion plans. Clearly, this will require substantially more renewable energy as we strive to hold operating costs as low as possible. Further, this may end up requiring a mix of solar and wind with some storage (battery) capacity and perhaps a mix of on-grid net-metering and off-grid components.

The next picture shows the current development of a new 50-student classroom -- which will be complete in time for the start of the new school year. Demand for primary education continues to grow as people move in looking for work and a better life -- and sometimes not being able to find either. Though the San Mateo community has "improved" somewhat over the last five years - especially with the addition of more reliable electricity -- the roadway system was constructed without any thought to proper drainage between the tidal marsh and the community itself -- cutting off much standing water from the adjacent bay. This is leading to much higher bacteria levels and breeding mosquitos -- which were not a problem in the past. Clearly, the continuing lack of ANY sanitary sewage in San Mateo remains a huge concern for the majority of our students that reside there.

This past week I also did a pictorial survey for Baker of various breaker boxes --- now at capacity -- as well as meters. The last set of pictures attached here shows those. Components of Phase 3 will include (1) a wiring assessment to detect and correct any faulty wiring that might be contributing to unstable power and/or over-consumption, such as crossing hot and ground wires; (2) meter and breaker assessment, to determine how to best connect our Phase 3 array. It is likely that both a new meter and breaker will be needed as overall school demand for power continues to rise; (3) location and configuration of the next set of solar panels.

So -- while much work remains before Phase 3 plans are finalized, progress is being made. Our liason on the ground is going to proceed with the wiring assessment and ensuring that he gets trained to do troubleshooting and repairs; BRE will be making a site visit in September to finalize Phase 3 engineering plans; and last but not least -- WE must finish raising the funds needed to sign our Phase 3 contract with BRE this fall. Please recall that BRE donates all of their technical time -- including travel --- as well as sells us all panel and array components at cost. Thank you Baker Renewable Energy.

In that light -- I urge you to consider making one or more special gifts this summer that would help make a significant dent in the $16K that we need to finish raising to make Phase 3 happen. We thank you for all you have done and will do for the children of Holy Cross through our renewable energy project. Let's go do it for Phase 3!

John

Board member strategic planning
Board member strategic planning
New classroom construction summer 2015
New classroom construction summer 2015
BRE meter cover ... Phase 1 solar array
BRE meter cover ... Phase 1 solar array
Breakers 1 and 2 nearing capacity
Breakers 1 and 2 nearing capacity
Breaker 3 nearing capacity
Breaker 3 nearing capacity

Greetings ---

We are eagerly anticipating our next site visit which will be conducted March 23-27th -- by the time you get this report, we may already be there! Once on site, we will be assisting with a variety of projects including continuing plans for our Phase 3 solar installation, included within a more general energy-saving plan for the school. In terms of financing, as of this report date, our base for Phase 3 is $54,670.60 and we have reached a total $66,575.00 for a net of nearly $12,000.00 toward our Phase 3 goal of about $28,000.This means we need to raise about $16K or just a bit more from this date moving forward in order to complete our Phase 3 funding goal.

Because we have not made a site visit in awhile, I do not have a lot of new items to report in this edition. Thanks to you, our many donors, our two 5KW solar panel installations continue functioning extremely well at Holy Cross Anglican School, and we are very excited about moving forward more quickly following our upcoming site visit. Again, on behalf of the the school's nearly 500 children, you have given our administration the ability to plow precious funds back into serving the children's educational and nutritional needs by allowing meaningful reductions in our electric bills. I will have much more to report once I return from our upcoming visit.

Sincere thanks and deep appreciation for all you are doing to make this project successful!!

JohnnyMac

Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (1)
Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (1)

Greetings ---

Planning for our Phase 3 solar installation is continuing. We participated in the recent Microsoft YouthSpark Bonus Day and were successful in raising more than $500 in matching funds. To you, our donors, we are thankful. Our analysis of the current 10KW system shows that we are about right in estimating an overall 40% offset in power consumption, so that at least another 5KW will be needed. I say at least because we have also been communicating with a company that builds small scale high efficiency wind turbines which could help fill gaps in solar production when clouds are prevalent, especially during the rainy season, and at night. Long term such a mix may end up being crucial. Based on the more in-depth meeting with BRE, they now believe there is still plenty of head-room to continue net metering with BEL although it may require additional breaker installation. This is good news indeed.

In terms of financing, as of this report date, our base for Phase 3 is $54,670.60 and we have reached a total $64,875.00 for a net of just over $10,000.00 toward our Phase 3 goal of about $28,000.This means we need to raise about $18K or just a bit more from this date moving forward in order to complete our Phase 3 funding goal.

We have also planned our next site visit which will occur the last week in March. I will be looking forward to going back and beginning the planning process with the Principal, Miss Grace, and staff to help create an energy-saving plan for the school.Thank you all, once again, for your continued investment in the lives of the children served by Holy Cross Anglican School. Best wishes for a great holiday season for you and yours.

I have attached a couple of recent shots of the area where many of the students that attend Holy Cross reside. 

JohnnyMac

Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (2)
Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (2)
Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (3)
Community near Holy Cross Anglican School (3)
Solar panels on school roof in the distance....
Solar panels on school roof in the distance....
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.

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.

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Project Leader

John McHenry

Eden Prairie, MN United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Provide electricity to 500 students in Belize