Jun 19, 2017

E-Gauges and Site-Visit Yield Significant Progress

Close up showing deterioration in Phase 1 array
Close up showing deterioration in Phase 1 array

Dear Supporters,

I am thrilled to report that data yielded by the E-gauges combined with a site-visit and meeting with Solar-Energy-Solutions-Belize (SESB) has resulted in our ability to (finally) nail down our course of action to complete our Phase 3 part of the project. We have faced several obstacles along the way: (1) that Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) decided to re-program our "net-metering" bi-directional meters so that they not only do not credit us for power sent back to the grid, but that they actually RUN FORWARD when we send power back to the grid; (2) changes in practice with residential solar here in North Carolina, where I am based, have put economic pressure on our traditional solar-provider, BRE, such that they have had to cut staff significantly. While these situations were developing, we were fortunate to grow a relationship with SESB, who oversaw the egauge installation. Then, in April, I met with the SESB CEO and a technical specialist on-site at the school. In brief, results show that (1) our Phase 2 installation is at about the right size for the meter to which it is connected, meaning that we are using most of what we generate, and only pushing a tiny bit of power back on to the grid (and thus paying BEL for that privilege....sigh) -- except on weekends, when we do overgenerate and thus reduce the benefit considerably; (2) our Phase 1 installation is producing way too little power to be of concern for having to pay BEL for excess... (good news there); (3) our Phase 1 array has developed some physical artifacts (picture attached) -- which, according to SESB, is a known problem with that generation of panels manufactured in Canada. The  result is that our original, Phase 1 array, is now generating only about 50% of theoretical peak, or about 2.5KW on a bright sunny day. However, the egauge on that array shows that we have plenty of headroom -- this meter draws or exceeds 10KW when the A/C is on (the office A/C was moved onto this main breaker/meter last year). Given this data, and following further discussions with SESB, they advise strongly not to address the artifact issue with the manufacturer because that process would be expensive -- too expensive and time-consuming to worry about.

Taking all of this into account, our action plan for Phase 3 is now clear: (1) purchase and install 3-4KW of new-generation 250W panels to augment our Phase 1 array. This will be enough to make a signficant dent in the power bill without over-generating much when school is in session; (2) install automatic on/off switches for both arrays set to turn panel power production "off" on the weekends; (3) further train local staff to  manually shut off both arrays when school is not in session (holidays, summer-break, etc.). Items (2) and (3) will significantly reduce the unfortunate disbenefit that BEL is imposing upon us, improving the net savings significantly. SESB informs us that it is likely that the Belize government WILL pass general legislation mandating that BEL re-establish net-metering, but that this political process may take a year or so. When (if?) that happens, it would then eliminate the need for on/off switching. You have helped us tremendously to this point, and we are now at a stage where we can move forward and complete Phase 3 in the next 6-12 months.

During this period, we will need to make a push to finish financing the project. To that end, I will be making another site-visit next week, including a visit to SESB headquarters in Belmopan. There, we will nail down the final specs for the new panels to-be-purchased as well as the automatic on/off switch(es) and local installation charges. Upon return, I will also meet w/ BRE, who will manage the actual acquisition the new panels and stage them to port (Miami) for shipping to Belize. This will allow us to calculate the remaining portion of our project budget quite accurately.

Secondly, there is a BONUS day coming up on GlobalGiving: GG Rewards Bonus Day will be from 9:00 EDT to 23:59 EDT on Wednesday, July 12th! On this day, GlobalGiving will have $110,000 in matching funds. Superstar organizations will be mached at 50%, Leaders at 40%, and Partners at 30%. (We are currently a partner).In addition to matching funds, there will be many additional prizes up for grabs on this day! These funds go very quickly, so to see any matched rewards we basically have to be ready to go at 9AM EDT that day. I will send out an update on exactly how and when to make a special contribution that day.

Thank you one and all for your patience and support as we worked through these issues on Phase 3.

Sincerely, John

SESB site visit (mid-April 2017)
SESB site visit (mid-April 2017)
Mar 21, 2017

E-Gauges Reporting at Holy Cross Anglican School

3-Day E-gauge data (total used red; solar green)
3-Day E-gauge data (total used red; solar green)

Hello again one and all!

The newly installed egauges are now up and running! SESB completed the install under the guidance of Baker Renewable (BRE), and connectivity was formally established in late January. We are now in the process of collecting data so that, given the current situation in Belize (BEL not allowing net-metering, at least at present), we can properly configure the two systems to deliver an optimal amount of electricity, sending as little as possible back to the grid. For example, the egauge on System 2 reports that, over the last month, we consumed about 2MWh, the solar array generated about 710kWh. At current BEL bill rates, we used approximately $259 in energy---of that we produced about $92 ourselves, and our bill was about $167; resulting in a savings of about 35%. I have attached several images from the e-gauge monitoring reports so you may see what data they are providing us with.

We are now actively planning for the steps needed to undertake repairs to the Phase 1 array, and as I mentioned in my last report, we will then review our Phase 3 plans/installation to fit accordingly.

I will be making another site visit to the school in early April. At that time I will be meeting with SESB personnel to review the recommendations they and BRE have come up with. I will also be making another site visit in June. By that time, we hope to have most of the changes to Phase 3 ironed out and begin to really move things forward again. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued commitment to this wonderful project.

3-Week E-gauge data (total used red; solar green)
3-Week E-gauge data (total used red; solar green)
Since e-gauges were installed
Since e-gauges were installed
E-gauge month summary usage
E-gauge month summary usage
Dec 19, 2016

E-Gauges installed at Holy Cross Anglican School

Greetings one and all!

Since my last report, we have formalized a local sub-contract with "Solar Energy Solutions Belize" (SESB) based in Belmopan, to be our installer for the eGauges. In addition, Baker Renewable (BRE) purchased and shipped the gauges to Belize, and they were successfully delivered to SESB within the last two weeks. Finally, I am happy to report that on Wednesday December 14th, SESB personel began the install process at Holy Cross Anglican School.

As of this writing -- two days later -- the eGauge data-feed is undergoing testing between SESB and BRE. As I had noted in my last report:

"eGauge is an affordable, flexible, secure, web-based electric energy and power meter that can measure up to 12 circuits on up to 3-phases (120V−480V, 50−60Hz). Use it to measure and record total building electrical consumption, solar, wind, consumption of individual circuits, such as appliances or geothermal system pumps, and motors..."

Once we have collected sufficient data, the gauges will allow us to automate and tune the solar panel on/off so that they run only when demand is high enough to consume all they generate and not needlessly waste renewable generation by sending it back to the grid--and get charged for it to boot!! Secondly, we will be able to assess and then undertake repairs needed to the Phase 1 array. Those repairs will also be done by SESB. Subsequently, we will then review our Phase 3 plans/installation to fit accordingly. All of this could not be accomplished without you, our committed donors.In my next report, I will provide a full update on what we have learned from the eGauge installation as well as progress on the automation, repairs, and Phase 3 plans. Our HCEF Board will be meeting at HCAS in early February and of course anything that comes out the Board meeting pertinent to this project will also be reported here.

May the blessings of joy and peace be yours this holiday season and throughout the year to come.


p.s.---rather than include any pictures this time (there will be plenty next) -- I want to postscript this report with a letter written by our principal, Mr. Griffith, about the school and the importance of our donors, volunteers, and the Foundation that we have established:

Dear Readers

Holy Cross Anglican School of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye exists today out of seeing the needs of hundreds of un-enrolled children roaming the streets of San Pedro.

Having served in many grant-aided schools throughout the country of Belize and gotten to see the extent to which these schools are helped or provided for the with the day to day resources by teachers I have in this short time truly grown to appreciate the Holy Cross Education Foundation through which hundreds of volunteers, donors and workers contribute to the growth of this institution. They have made it so much easier for the teachers and administration to to provide the resources students need from day to day to make the school more productive.

Our students literally come from the poorest part of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and from parents who are the hard working labor force of the community on a seasonal basis.

This foundation has made a marked difference in the lives of many, where literally nothing existed for them. The students of Holy Cross are benefiting from the foresight and generosity of every donor who have contributed in faith that the students who received these resources will be successful. After 10 years, these graduates are now equipping themselves with the skills and knowledge that will bring them into the full working force of this community as computer technicians, teachers, hotel, restaurant and office managers, graduating at the top of their class with honors and having high self esteem and self worth in contributing positively to this community. What the Foundation has done is that is has cleared most of the obstacles that students face from day to day to make it easier for them to succeed.

Holy Cross Anglican School is a success story we must continue to build on to meet the needs of children no matter from where they came.

Submitted by

Rodney Griffith
Holy Cross Anglican School
San Pedro Town

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