I was very pleased to step away from my desk and play chauffeur for a day last week – Friday Fun. My Kenyon College friends, James Skon, Doug Karl and Robert Alexander were back in Belize doing solar power assessments on schools. Thanks to Carts Belize for their donation. Having wheels was a huge help on the job and I only had to put $5 in the tank to top it up even though we went here there and everywhere.
The team was busy this year. They looked at 2 schools in Toledo, 1 in Stan Creek, 4 in Cayo, 2 on Ambergris Caye and even did a side gig volunteering in Guatemala for a day. On Ambergris they were assisted by Steve Harp who also helped last year.
Based on the information collected this trip, and once they thaw out, the solar crew will decide which schools countrywide are the best qualified to receive solar power. After their decisions are made they will bring already selected volunteer vacation students from Kenyon College on a return trip in March. The College wants their Gambier Ohio students to engage with other cultures, leave a lasting quality gift that will reach far into the future and show kids a great way to care about the environment.
School Requirements to Receive Solar
As for the qualification process, there are many deciding factors. Safety for the students who will be doing the installation being most important. They will not do second story buildings that do not have a flat roof and access also has to be safe no matter what the height. Even if the building is one story, the pitch of the roof cannot be too steep.
Electricity is also a factor as they want to make sure that the building electric is well done and able to accommodate dedicated breaker(s) for the solar panels. Being able to position the panels in a south facing direction is also a requirement to maximize solar power production. If the roof is flat that requires extra planning. The panels have to be angled towards the sun so a wood structure is needed on an unsloped roof to attach the panels so they are not laying flat.
At the meetings, I told both schools not to worry about where the money was going to come from, I am happy to help raise money for this important cause for a second year.
Assessments and Checkups
We started at New Horizon which my friend Pepper Carpenter had scheduled for us. She is a former teacher and did a large school supply drive for the school before so she knew who to talk to. Principal Samuel Chi and manager Ernesto Barahona were both happy to see us, they answered questions and gave a tour of the school breaker box and roof. After the assessment, it was determined they are willing and good candidates. Both gentlemen were excited and hope to be granted final approval for the March installation. The school has so many expenses that every bit saved will help them towards providing a better education for the kids. It is also a great way to teach our youngsters about adopting practices that are good for the environment and how such things can mathematically provide a long-term return on an initial investment.
In addition to assessing the two new schools, the team also checked on last years recipients, Ambergris Caye Elementary School and Brighter Tomorrow. Thanks again to last years donors that made it possible for these two schools to get solar: Denise Ryan of ACES, Sarah Reza at Have Fun Stay Fit, Amanda Syme of Sunrise Realty, Pepper Carpenter and tacogirl.com. The two schools will have their 1 year anniversaries of going solar on March 14th and 15th 2018.
Since ACES was close to the first school, we called and asked if it was ok to do a pop in. Superintendent, Jovany met us there, he knew the crew from last year. While looking at the two electrical boxes it was discovered that a fuse was blown. Thankfully SP Hardware had a matching one left and was easily replaced.
After a delicious lunch at the Hungry Grouper, Steve and Doug headed out to check in with Javier and Ariani and the system at Brighter Tomorrow. It was in good shape and nothing needed to be addressed. (Since I opted for photo collages, I decided to include Carts Belize and San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi transportation pictures along with yummy blackened snapper and coconut rice)
James, Robert and I headed to the High School in hopes of talking to Principal Emil Vasquez. Thankfully he was available and he was very interested in what the men had to say. He also agrees that getting solar power would definitely be an educational experience.
Even though the school is two stories, they are still a good candidate as the roof is flat and has safe access. The High School spends over $6500 a month on electric and while getting a few solar panels will not completely eliminate the bill, it is a good start to minimizing their monthly electrical expenses. The Solar crew also told Emil that they were willing to train someone that has a vested interest in the school to be able to install more panels which can be shipped down anytime.
While nothing is officially set in stone for my 2018 school choices on Ambergris Caye getting panels in March, it is looking good. It was a promising sign that the guys liked Steve’s idea to stop by Sandbar so they could see the hostel rooms as possible accommodations for their return trip in March. We also enjoyed a celebratory drink of for a day well done before heading to the water taxi.
In addition to our island schools, I also requested an assessment for St. Matthews Primary School in Belmopan on behalf of my friend Magistrate Adolph Lucas. He tutors students there and in San Pedro. Unfortunately, the Solar Crew’s time in Belize went by quickly so they weren’t able to get there and said they will try to visit on their next trip.
Solar for Schools in Belize Live Data
Kenyon College has a Belize Solar Project website set up so they can monitor the schools from afar, the schools can enjoy seeing their panels in action and the public can see the data if they are interested. Reminder we will need funds for March 2018 (in the $2000 range) if this is something you are in favor of please consider a contribution.
taco Tip #6
Always have pictures of your ID on your phone. It came in handy when getting the golf cart as my drivers license number was not on my Flintstones-sized one that I have as a temporary one because the machine was broken at the traffic dept. I pulled out my phone and got the number from a picture.