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Talking Sunshine at Poco Locos Food Court and Growing Solar Power in Belize Schools

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I am starting with the last excitement first and working my way back to the big event. We recently received a great benefit from the Kenyon College Belize School solar installation project on Ambergris Caye – interested people are making contact.

Dan Shifley, owner, and contractor at Dogwood Solar found me and reached out. He was coming here on a family vacation and wanted to know more about Solar in Belize, the electric company and, the volunteer-driven solar panel installations. At my request, he also gave a link to where to help the high school get quality educational materials. Doug Karl’s (one of the volunteers) recommendation was – “Solar Electricity handbook 2017 addition: A Simple Practical Guide to Solar Energy.” He recommended it because it is appropriate for use at a high school level with some algebra, some practical, etc.

Is anyone coming down that could mule a few books for me? (Also looking for a stateside laptop mule) 🙂

As a result of our online chat, Dan agreed to meet me for lunch with my friends Coleen Creeden, and solar Steve. Coleen has been off-grid solar for 10 years and operates a super cool solar charged electric bicycle, and when he was in the U.S. Steve’s home was powered by the sun. Here, he works with NEMO. Steve also volunteered the past two years for installation at the schools.

We ended up enjoying Poco Loco Food Court, a perfect place to have a lunch meeting. There are 5 different options to choose from. Black Daag Burrito company, Big Up Burger, Sprouts soup and salad bar, Driftwood crepe shop and Tipsy Toucan bar. Like Poco Loco Facebook page to see all the tasty treats they are serving up.

Aside from enjoying tasty food and great conversation, we all agreed that a good next stage of the game is to create two SOPs for the solar panels that can be used by all schools countrywide. One for flat roof installations and one for slanted roofs. The manual will be in both English and Spanish and include basic care and hurricane preparations. Steve and I will work with the four Ambergris Caye schools that received Kenyon College installations to identify who will be in charge of battening down the panels in the event of a storm (at least two people per school) and Steve will go over the manual with them.

More exciting news, San Pedro High School will also be getting an extra bilingual manual. Off Grid Solar Power Demo Model for San Pedro High School

Since David Sosa (who sells solar equipment locally) was willing to give us a deal on a gently used set up, The Lunchbox food delivery, Forrest Jones, and tacogirl.com all chipped in and bought an off-grid demo model for the High School Science Lab.

It came complete with a Kyocera panel, inverter, battery, and digital charge controller. The panel will give about 3 amps at 14v with that particular charge controller and will have the ability for students to test 2 different plug options. David even color-coded it for us and showed me how easy it was to use. Steve and I went to a Harmouche Center straight away and got battery water and then found the correct size funnel at Caye Supplies. We all agree proper maintenance is very important and it will be outlined for the teachers in charge.

The students will have supervised use of the panel and be able to monitor the output to see what they can charge from it and how long it takes. They will also learn upkeep and maintenance to keep the battery in good working order. 

2018 Ambergris Caye School Solar Installations

Growing solar power in Belize Schools through annual installations by Kenyon College presents far-reaching benefits and has been a very rewarding endeavor. Both New Horizons primary school and San Pedro High School were the recipients of eight solar panels each. 

Link to Kenyon College live solar data. This year’s schools have been added to the page and soon the sigh school students will be able to compare all four schools on the island, and if they want they could include the mainland. (note New Horizon is actually a primary school and will get corrected asap). This is turning out to be a huge positive education piece in regards to schools teaching kids the value of not only being environmentally friendly but also reducing the household budget.

There are so many people to be thankful for in regards to this year’s solar power installations on Ambergris Caye. First, to both New Horizons and San Pedro High School for being excited to receive solar power.

Thanks to all these people who came together in seven days to help both schools go solar.

Brittney O’Daniel – Sand Bar, Diana Evans – Feathers Airbnb, Sarah Reza – Have Fun Stay Fit, Susan and Randy Watts, Pepper Carpenter and David Buis, Coleen Meritt, Susan Morrice, Courtney Hall, Steve Roderick, Michelle Cammarata, Jodi ‘Chytka’ Schell, Jennifer Murray, Shannon Howard, Joshua Obar, Tommy Johnson, Alison Taylor, Patsy Fowler – Belize Parasail, Scott Richmond, Anonymous donor, Reef Management, Aimee Bordeaux Fearneyhough, Judy Hargrove Allen, Joy Gwinup Quyle, Kim Owen, Michelle Ellechim, Sandie Betz Eisenberg and Bob Eisenberg, Jason Turley – Belize Asset Management, Fanny Blue Tang, Michelle and Eric Kosin Jesus, Nancy Wakefield, Mark and Deb Emde, and Laurie Norton – tacogirl.com.

Between all the donors, a total of $5650 was raised. The Remaining $1550 that was needed to pay for the panels and materials was split between the two schools. Everyone agreed it was good they had some “skin in the game” and both Principals were happy that they did not have to come up with too much money.

$3600 BZD per school got them a complete installation package and basic monitoring assistance. This included a total of 16 panels; 8 per school, two Inverters, a few other components, mounting hardware, and wiring.

Thank you goes to Emil Vasquez, San Pedro High School Principal for transporting the panels. Moving 16 glass panels 65 x 35 x 2 inches weighing about 30 lbs each is no small feat. They came all the way from San Ignacio to San Pedro.

Thanks to Kenyon College Ohio, Faculty James Skon, Robert Alexander, Lisa Swaim, and students, with assistance from Doug Karl and Steve Harp for doing a professional installation on both schools. Thanks also goes to C&S Cart rental for helping with mobility between the schools.

Working With Kenyon College Ohio

We were delighted to have Kenyon College back the second year to install solar panels and I asked Doug Karl for his take on it from their side of the fence.

“We are delighted to work with Ambergris Caye schools especially as they are incorporating solar technology into their studies. Belize has such high volume sunshine that it makes solar power a great option. With solar panels and electronics dramatically dropping in price, solar power has never been so affordable. The demand for skilled solar system designers and installers in the country is largely increasing. With the heavy investment in solar technology, The price for the equipment is dropping dramatically as the features and quality are improving.” – Doug Karl assistant to Kenyon College effort.

In my messenger conversation with Doug and Steve the other day, Doug said “There are always areas for improvement. I really look forward to good technical discussions with people. It takes a village.” This was in regards to our island running with the ball and trying to make something great happen beyond a few dollars saved on a power bill.

There is no telling how far this will go.

Installation and Food Pictures

Of course, I had to add our celebration dinner at Jambel Jerk Pit and the award-winning bacon cheeseburger from Sandbar Restaurant. I say that because not only did it taste yummy, but a couple of my buddies on Facebook also gave it a rave review strictly based on the delightful pile of bacon on top.

New Horizon Primary School was the second of the two to get done this year. Because of the angled roof, the panels were a flat installation. This will make it easier for storm preparations. Ambergris Caye Elementary School (done last year) is also sloped.

Last but not least San Pedro High School which takes us back to the beginning of the 2018 installations. This year’s volunteer students were smart, enthusiastic to learn and not afraid to do the work.

They also knew how to have a good time. As you can see from the boys randomly pulling a “Charlie’s Angels” pose and the group on the roof breaking into the Can Can dance while I was snapping pics.

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