kaunakakai elementary:  PV/AC project

THE PROBLEM:

  • Overheating classrooms upwards of 90 degrees
  • Outdated electrical infrastructure.  Portable air conditioners provided would blow out the electrical.
  • Uncomfortable classroom environments due to heat as well as accumulated noise from fans

THE SOLUTION:

  • 25 x LEZETi Solar PV A/C's
  • 75 x PV panels installed (19.5kW DC)
  • Outdoor units mounted directly to the classroom wall or mounted on a grounded pad
  • No major electrical upgrades required; one additional distribution panel added to each building

MEDIA LINKS:  Star Advertiser  |  MauiNow.com |  Maui News  |  HIDOE  | Flip the Switch Celebration, Akaku Media Video

ABOUT THE PROJECT:  

Thanks to a 6th grader’s presidential campaign promise to cool her school, 33 LEZETi solar hybrid air-conditioning units were generously donated to cool down several hot classrooms (up to 90 degrees) across two elementary campuses on Molokai.  In-line with Governor Ige's statewide cooling initiative, this project cooled down 17 classrooms without requiring any major electrical upgrades to the outdated electrical infrastructure. 

Kaunakakai Elementary received 25 solar A/C units installed in 14 different classrooms.  Two units were installed per classroom unless a working A/C unit was already installed.  19.5kW DC PV was installed across 4 different buildings to power the 25 hybrid solar A/C units.  

Outdoor units were mounted up near the eves or on the ground atop fixed platforms. The buildings were a mix of single wall wood and hollow block construction were a determining factor in where and how the outdoor units were installed. 

The addition of 25 LEZETi solar hybrid air conditioning units is a 60% increase in air conditioning for Kaunakakai Elementary without any major electrical upgrades required.  Only one additional distribution panel was added to four of the buildings.  Greenpath Technologies along with the support of their electrical and HVAC subs were able to expedite the project within a month. 

With the partnership of private industry and the support of the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE), Kaunakakai Elementary School created better learning environments for their students with minimal impact to the grid.  A win-win situation with summer just around the corner, the sun that formerly overheated the classrooms will now be powering its cooling system and with DC driven compressors, these units deliver ultra-quiet cooling to the classrooms.   Projects such as these are only one example of the many cooling strategies the HIDOE is engaging in towards the public school heat abatement program.

On April 8th, Kaunakakai Elementary held a "Flip the Switch" Celebration event to celebrate the brand new solar hybrid air conditioners installed.  Their sister school, Kilohana Elementary also joined in the celebration. View the news story videos that captured the ceremony and story at KHON and Maui Now News.  

Some of the capstone accomplishments from this project include:

  • Raising awareness about uncomfortable classroom temperatures
  • Public/Private partnerships that benefited statewide classroom cooling initiatives 
  • Addressing concerns for long-term sustainable utility costs for the HIDOE
  • Enhancing the classroom environment with a quiet and cool solution

This LEZETi solar hybrid A/C was a perfect fit for this project as the standard hours of school between 6am-4pm are also the prime sun hours for the system to draw on FREE sunlight to power the cooling of the classroom.   With an average of 15-25 students per classroom, and aging electrical infrastructure, the need for a highly energy efficient A/C with silent operation and minimal grid consumption was key in helping to maintain a comfortable learning environment as well as sustainable long-term operating costs for the HIDOE.