Oct 5, 2021

Update on Progress and COVID-related difficulties

Volunteers gather for photo July 2021
Volunteers gather for photo July 2021

Greetings on behalf of our solar renewable energy project!

As I had mentioned last report, I was preparing for a site visit to Holy Cross Anglican Public School in San Mateo Belize, which I was able to conduct along with a group of volunteers. While navigating the COVID regulations added a extra layer of detail to our trip, we found traveling very manageable and our visit to be of great comfort to the staff and community at HCAS. Although we did not directly work on the solar project, we were able accomplish -- along with our Belizean partners -- a lot of construction targeted to our new multipurpose building. This new building, when complete, will house additional classrooms and office space, a community center and chapel, a vocational training lab, and will be constructed to meet Category 3 hurricane shelter standards. To do this, we have had to landfill substantial areas of the tidal marsh that encroaches on the school (indeed, the school is all built on or over water) while developing the  foundation including a functional cistern (see photos attached). The cistern, when filled, will provide the school with potable water sufficient to mitigate the need to buy expensive city water, which is above the operations budget it can afford. So, we are really excited about this.

In addition, we plan for the new building to house an additional array of solar panels. A second set of new panels will be placed atop the on-campus residence that will provide modest housing for volunteers -- both short and long-term.

Unfortunately, COVID has and is still having a major impact on the nation of Belize. The government budget has suffered serious shortfalls / reductions including a 10% pay-cut for teachers. At the same time, students are still not being allowed back in classrooms -- we hope this won't last more than a couple of more months. This means our campus is largely unoccupied during much of the week. Due to this situation, we have not yet been able to address some malfunctioning connectivity so that presently, although we know they are working, we cannot monitor our two sets of solar panels that many of you have helped to fund. Furthermore, the government has *not* made any more progress toward the net-metering auction that had been promised, and we are attempting to get clarification as to why.

Hopefully we will have additional answers/clarification and connectivity repairs before our next report, while at the same time looking forward to our next site visit in February of 2022.

As always, your support means everything in terms of our ability to develop the school in an environmentally responsible way while also reducing the day-to-day costs to operate. With such savings, we could not serve the approximately 450 children that attend, most of whom come from below-the-poverty line homes.

With gratitude,

John

Cistern construction: new multipurpose building
Cistern construction: new multipurpose building
Installing gutters for rainwater collection
Installing gutters for rainwater collection
Some dear friends of the school
Some dear friends of the school
May 24, 2021

Potential to adopt a Net-metering approach emerges

Showing how your donations make a huge difference
Showing how your donations make a huge difference

Hello One and All,

It's been awhile since I've posted a report, but the reality is that over winter and into spring not much was accomplised at the school. Thankfully, Belize (like the US) is beginning a return toward normal life as tourism, which factors into about 50% of the Belizean economy, slowly returns. This means that -- I am happy to report -- I will be making a site visit in late July. This will include a full assessment of current status of our solar PV systems as well as looking ahead to plans for additional systems as the new multipurpose building construction gets under way. In addition, happily, we have learned that the (newly elected) Belizean government seems to be serious about allowing (grandfathering in) pre-existing grid-tied solar PV systems to receive true net-meters. While our ZGF units have been very successful, we have not realized the added benefit of being able to essentially be paid for sending additional power back onto the grid. Our registration for such a metering system has been filed and we now await a site visit by a Belizean official of the Public Utilities Commission.

That's about status for now as we look forward to our next site visit. As always, your support means everything in terms of our ability to develop the school in an environmentally responsible way while also reducing the day-to-day costs to operate. With such savings, we could not serve the approximately 450 children that attend, most of whom come from below-the-poverty line homes.

With gratitude,

John

Jan 23, 2021

Zero-Grid Feed Units installed and Functioning!

Example ZGF mitigating overproduction penalty
Example ZGF mitigating overproduction penalty

Dear Friends,

As of last report, the COVID-19 situation in Belize had prevented the installation of our ZGF (zero-grid-feed) units. I am very happy to inform all of you that due to the temporary lifting of some in-country travel restrictions, the units were installed and became functional prior to the holidays!

As I had noted in my previous report, our new zero-grid feed units are well worth the investment --- and they include the following three crucial benefits: (1) Calculations based on data available from the monitoring systems (figures shown in previous reports) indicate savings of an additional 10% off of the base (no PV solar at all) bill of about $11,000 per year; (2) because the unfair overproduction penalty is now eliminated, the previous efficiency limitation resulting from that penalty has also been alleviated. This now allows our PV systems to scale up; (3) most importantly, the overall savings will substantially contribute to the ability of the school to become fully self-reliant in what we hope will be a 3-5 year time frame.

Furthermore, the HCEF has begun -- thanks to external grants -- development of a new multipurpose building that will include a rain-water harvesting system and cistern to supply no-cost drinking water to the school (and surrounding community, when necessary). The new building will also be built to modern hurricane resistant standards, sufficient to serve as an official Hurricane Shelter. Given that our location is on a barrier island, this new facility is desperately needed. The new facility will also house additional classroom space, offices, vocational training, and a chapel. We hope to generate substantial electricity for the new multipurpose facility from planned new solar PV that will be placed atop the new building. Given the ability to mitigate the disbenefits of overproduction with the new ZGF units, we are very excited about our plans to scale up in the future.

Of course, COVID-19 is still a major obstacle for the school and surrounding community. To that end, we continue to focus on meeting school/community needs through supporting the local emergency food resource program at the school. This program benefits not only school families but those in the surrounding community that have become food insecure due to the massive layoffs suffered as a result of the pandemic.

I have some new pictures w/ captions showing example PV power generation curves that demonstrate the ZGF benefits... as well as a couple of photos showing foundation work that is beginning on the new multipurpose center. (See below).

As always, we at HCEF thank you so very much for continuing your support of this vital community development project.

Warm regards, John

New multipurpose building construction (1)
New multipurpose building construction (1)
Cistern construction @ new Multipurpose facility
Cistern construction @ new Multipurpose facility

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