Sep 19, 2016

Solar Phase 3 and Belize Electricity Limited

Parents and students: 1st day of school fall 2016
Parents and students: 1st day of school fall 2016

Hello one and all, 

It has proven to be a somewhat slower-progress summer than I would have liked with respect to Phase Three -- and in fact with respect to our existing solar resources as well. Working with Baker Renewable Energy, we have chosen a local renewable energy company based in Belize. From them, we obtained conclusive feedback that at this time Belize Electricity Limited will no longer supply smart-meters for the type of SPV system we have installed or are planning to install. This means that our strategy will be changing:

1) We are in the process of contracting to have "eGauges" installed to enable tracking energy usage break down between grid-generated power and solar-generated power on both the smart meter and the standard meter based systems. We have every reason to believe that BEL has turned off net-metering on the smart meter they installed for Phase 1, and this will allow us to fully determine. It will allow us to understand how our power consumption is split between renewable solar on site and the grid acquired power.

Check out, for example: https://www.egauge.net/, from their website:

"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. eGauge is best suited to provide:

  • Real time energy information
  • Renewable Energy monitoring
  • Measurement and Verification of essential equipment (M&V)
  • Operations and Maintenance of asset portfolio (O&M)
  • Data export via push or pull with an open data API
  • Lower energy cost
  • Lower emission associated with fossil fuel energy
  • Establish building energy benchmark and LEED points
  • Peak Demand analysis
  • Energy Efficiency projects and commissioning

"Track your usage and compare it to your renewable energy generation, helping you achieve net-zero energy consumption, maximize your payback, and lower your monthly electricity bill"

2) This 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!!

3) Once the eGauges are installed, we will also have much improved data re: the repairs needed to the Phase 1 array. 

4) The local Belizean renewable energy company will be employed to install both the eGauges and to make Phase 1 repairs. We believe that hiring a local company will create good will all around -- and may eventually help break the freeze on bi-directional smart meters that even our local company is upset about.

5) Now that we know we cannot continue with net-metering but rather have to shift strategies, we believe we can begin to make progress again toward Phase 3 installation. But this means that your donations are even more important because this tactic may increase overall deployment costs. But that's what committed donors like you are all about: making the world a better place, one project at a time.

Again -- I thank one and all of you for continuing to believe in us and in our mission to serve the poorest of the poor through Holy Cross Anglican School.

Sincerely,

John

Savings from solar go to the feeding program!
Savings from solar go to the feeding program!
San Mateo hit hardest by Hurricane Earl
San Mateo hit hardest by Hurricane Earl
Jun 22, 2016

Solar Renewable Energy Phase 3: Meeting Challenges

Reviewing wiring at the main breaker
Reviewing wiring at the main breaker

Hello one and all,

Since my last report, I made a week-long site visit to Holy Cross Anglican School. Together with a team of volunteers, we were able to re-wire the school office from its "legacy" feed (coming from the original Belize Energy Limited -- aka BEL -- meter ) onto the bi-directional meter that was installed with Phase 1. This was important primarily from the standpoint of safety --- as noted in my previous report --- the main breaker in the office complex has the spare capacity, whereas the older breaker did not. Thus, the office complex is now fully tied into the Phase 1 solar array and is benefitting from the net-metering that is installed there, while there is now a more reasonable draw through the older breaker. We did not, however, have a chance to replace the older breaker -- that is still on the list of things to be done.

I attach a number of photos of the rewiring work just completed.

We have also been working hard to nudge BEL toward providing us with a second bi-directional smart meter. Efforts have included a letter signed by the school principal, outreach to BEL staff via phone, and outreach to local renewable energy companies in Belize. It has been surprisingly difficult to get action to this point -- we believe, however, that having a local entity (company that does solar) represent us in-country will help. My recent meetings with Baker Renewable Energy have resulted in a modified strategy to begin Phase 3 work with the following:

1) Make repairs on the Phase 1 array -- which requires replacing the original microinverters with updated ones consistent with those used in Phase 2 and  those to be used in Phase 3. The original ones, we found out, were not as resistant as hoped to the stress of a tropical salt water environment. Seven or eight of the original ones have failed -- thus the need to upgrade the whole array.

2) Install E-gauges to enable tracking energy usage break down between grid-generated power and solar-panel generated power on both the smart meter and the standard meter based systems. This will allow us to understand how our power consumption is split between renewable solar on site and the grid.

3) Continue to make efforts to engage the right people to acquire a new smart meter. One of the items we learned recently is that it is (still!) possible to connect locally generated solar to the grid but a license from the Public Utilities Commission is now (apparently) required. It is very possible that such a license was not required when the Phase 1 meter was installed ..... (BEL just came out and installed the meter for us). Thus, we will engage the PUC directly instead of going through BEL which may explain some of the lack of action .... to be determined.

4) Determine which renewable energy company in Belize we want to act as our local in-country representative.

Bottom line is that we don't want to go ahead and spend a substantial fraction of what we have raised to date without knowing whether or not we can continue to obtain net-metering. If we cannot (still to be determined), we may have to rethink toward a smaller purchase of new panels and reserve some funding for load balancing and even battery backup approaches. That said, we still have a ways to go with our Phase 3 fundraising ... so please please continue your generous giving!

Again -- I thank one and all of you for continuing to believe in us and in our mission to serve the poorest of the poor through Holy Cross Anglican School. Please keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers in terms of our negotiations with Belizean authorities to obtain additional net-metering.

Sincerely,

John

Rewiring outside the office complex
Rewiring outside the office complex
Many residents of San Mateo have no electricity
Many residents of San Mateo have no electricity
New subpanel installed!
New subpanel installed!
Re-wiring complete!
Re-wiring complete!
Mar 23, 2016

Phase 3 beginning -- and more!

Greetings one and all!

Since my last report there has been lots of new activity. But, since I will be making a site visit next week I will be brief and provide just the highlights -- then dig into some more details next report.

  • We have completed our contract signing for Phase 3 with Baker Renewable Energy. While we have not met our fundraising goal yet (we are still about $18K short), we have sufficient funds to get the ball rolling. In addition, we will be making some repairs on the Phase 1 array -- which requires replacing the original microinverters with updated ones consistent with those used in Phase 2 and  those to be used in Phase 3. The original ones, we found out, were not as resistant as hoped to the stress of a tropical salt water environment. Seven or eight of the original ones have failed -- thus the need to upgrade the whole array.
  • We have completed a circuit/wiring diagram and will be making some changes in the way our main breaker panels and sub-panels are connected. The first of these changes will be to put the office complex onto the closest main breaker (200AMP) which has the capacity to absorb the extra load. This breaker is also routed through the Phase 1 solar array--thus the office complex will have the benefit of the Phase 1 array while taking it off of the overloaded breaker that is responsible for the rest of the school's electricity consumption.
  • We will also replace the overloaded, small breaker (connected to Phase 2) with a 200AMP service to eliminate any more of the overload that was noted during my last sight visit. This will also balance out the draw on the Phase 1 and Phase 2 arrays.
  • We are engaged with Belize Electricity Limited in terms of acquiring our next bi-directional smart meter. I hope this will be resolved soon.
  • Finally, we hosted the very fine Global Giving representative, Ms. Daillen Culver. Daillen filed a thorough trip report, including the following as part of the report: (1) Richard, Cindy, and Miss Dora were all incredibly welcoming and gave me a wonderful tour of the Holy Cross Anglican School's campus. I was truly impressed by all the work they have done, and continue to do, in order to improve the lives of the children of Ambergris Caye; (2) I think that occasional Project Reports written by onsite staff or someone in the field could be a great way to diversify updates and give perspective on work taking place on the ground in San Mateo; (3) I think it's amazing that the Holy Cross Anglican School is so committed to sustainability. In a region where this kind of environmental responsibility is not common, they are constantly working to reduce their impact. I think it would be worthwhile to invest in an equally comprehensive education program, focusing on teaching kids about climate change and human impact on the environment. This provides an even more sustainable solution, as these children can go on to become leaders in protecting Belize for years to come; (4) The Holy Cross Education Foundation is a shining example of education's ability to empower a community. Their efforts have brightened the futures of countless children and simultaneously created a brighter future for Belize!

So, this report, we want to focus a shining light on Global Giving and what they are doing around the world to make not only our project, but countless projects like ours, successful. And, thank you to our donors, for making this remarkable project possible!

Sincerely,

John

 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.