Aiea High School Installs PV System

Last month, Aiea High School led the way in a partnership between Hawaii Pacific Solar and the state Department of Education, becoming the first of four DOE high schools on the island to install a photovoltaic (PV) system through the company under a power purchase agreement.

The school welcomed Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other state officials March 19 for a dedication ceremony for the system.

Gov. Abercrombie

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Aiea High School culinary students meeting with Gov. Abercrombie at the school's PV system dedication ceremony are (from left) Kelani Jarra, Tuiserina Lautalo, Aaron Atmospera, Kaala Leopoldo, Kamakana Apelu, Pumehana Beltran, Royston Kunimitsu, Ian Kamimura, Trevon Dennis Sparrow, Mikee Gaviola, McKenna Cary, Racheal Lauriano, Skye Furusho, Chaz Kino and (center) Abercrombie with (to his right) culinary instructor Gina Ramson. Photo courtesy of the Governor's office.

According to the DOE, the panels will prevent 264,600 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere – equivalent to emissions from 13,428 gallons of gasoline from 270 barrels of oil.

The project has no cost to the DOE and is expected to save more than $150,000 during the 20-year life of the panels. HPS also repaired Aiea’s roof to ensure that it will last as long as the panels.

Along with the PV system, HPS also has provided the school with a real-time monitoring system that displays the amount of power generated, the amount of carbon reduction and energy-saving attributes of the panels.

The PV panels also provide a hands-on tool for students.

“This provides real-world information,” Aiea High School vice principal Rory Vierra said. “This is actual day-to-day information that the students can monitor , and it’s actually happening right now at the school.”

Teachers currently are figuring out additional ways to incorporate the panels into their curriculum.

“We are looking at using (the panels) in not only science and math, but also in the social studies classes,” Vierra said. “The students can look at the effects on society and those types of implications … and the positive consequences for installing the photovoltaic panels.”

Aiea High School also emphasizes sustainable practices in its curriculum through aquaponics and permaculture. The school currently is working to expand these programs within a number of disciplines.

Vierra explained that currently, students in a work-readiness program monitor an aquaponics system, various science classes incorporate the topics, and a student club practices aqua-culture with Hawaiian plants.

“That’s kind of the new trend. If you’re looking at life after college, a lot of businesses, a lot of farms, a lot of communities are focusing more on sustainable practices,” he said. “I think as the kids are growing up and keep hearing the messages that … our resources are limited, we need to look at ways that we can preserve what we have, instead of just continuing to do the same things that we have been doing.

“I feel excited for the kids because they’re going to be graduating with this philosophy of creating a more sustainable community.”

HPS also has a contract to install panels at Kahuku, Kaimuki and Waianae high schools. And it will be working with 15 schools on Kauai to install similar projects.