Archive for September, 2015

Cooling our classrooms

By
September 21st, 2015



The ads on the radio play over and over again. There's the kid touting Hawaii Common Core Standards, and how they align with college and workforce expectations. Another ad goes on about the "smarter balanced assessments" in math and English language arts to reach our "55 by 25" goal. We just found out how we did on that. But all I can think of, as most parents with kids in public school are probably thinking right now, is, what about the heat?

The heat.

The 90-to 100-degree Fahrenheit heat and humidity brought on by El Nino has set record-setting temperatures in the Hawaiian isles this year. Students, teachers and staff are sweltering in stifling, hot classrooms as they're attempting to teach and learn. There's no relief in sight until the end of the year.

It didn't help that the first day of school was July 29, the height of summer.

Blame it on climate change.

The state DOE actually does. See the letter below.

Factors in building out air conditioning across the public school system

29-Jul-2015

As the state's cooling tradewinds continue to decline and the heat index continues to rise due to climate change, HIDOE is challenged by the need to install air conditioning at all public schools. This involves more than installing AC units — there are budget and infrastructure hurdles to overcome. And we must approach it with an eye to sustainability so we aren't adding to the problem of escalating energy use.

The Hawaii Department of Education began deploying portable air-conditioners this week, but that's only a temporary solution, at best. The overall solution isn't so simple. The department says it will take $1.7 billion to cool the schools. The estimated figure, which seems quite high, includes the cost of upgrading infrastructure and installing central air conditioning in 256 schools in the state.

Portable air-conditioners are definitely not part of a long-term solution (and some say they aren't effective for a large classroom). With the hurdles of higher electricity costs that come with air-conditioning and issues of sustainability, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Reflective roof coating, increased insulation and better building designs are contributing solutions. But solar technology should have been part of the solution, already.

The state DOE's fact sheet for cooling schools also blames old buildings and infrastructure as part of the challenge, but cites solar technology as part of the solution. Solar-powered ventilators make sense. So does solar photovoltaic air conditioning, which is being tested at a portable at Waianae High School. Kudos to students at Campbell High, who took the matter into their own hands and raised $19,000 for photovoltaic air-conditioning through a crowdfunding campaign called Fahrenheit 73. Another donated system is planned for Kalaheo High School. The department, however, is evaluating whether the high costs of the systems are justified.

In addition to the electrical upgrades needed to install air-conditioning, there are the costs of operating air-conditioning. The power bill at Pohakea Elementary School, for instance, more than doubled when AC was installed, according to the DOE, which currently spends more than $62 million a year on electricity, gas, water and sewage fees a year.

Utilities Overview FY16-17

While Hawaii recently boasted of being one of the states with the highest concentrations of rooftop solar per capita, those solar panels, unfortunately, did not land fast enough on its public school rooftops. To date, approximately 46 schools, or roughly 18 percent of Hawaii's schools, have installed solar PV as a result of Act 96 in 2006. To its credit, the department's Ka Hei program launched in 2004 has a laudable goal — it aims to reduce energy costs through energy efficiency measures while bringing STEM lessons to the classroom. McKinley High School is the latest recipient of a 100 kw solar PV system financed through power purchase agreements.

But this all comes more than a decade too late. Hawaii lags behind other states in this no-brainer decision despite having the best potential out of all the states in the U.S. in terms of sunshine. There was this extensive study conducted by MK Think that cited "solar gain" as "the single most important contributor to interior temperature" in schools. Solar technology could also be the single most important solution to cooling our schools.

>> Hawaii ranks No. 1 in states where schools that could save money by going solar, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association. Yet Hawaii ranks No. 20 in school solar PV capacity, behind Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and California. And we only have one school district, while other states have multiple districts to contend with.

Rankings

>> While we've set a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045, why haven't schools been a higher priority? Board of Education Policy 6710 sets a visionary goal of reducing the Department's reliance on fossil fuel-based energy by 90 percent by 2040. Long-term visions and goals are nice, but the reality is our students are suffering TODAY.

>> Schools most in need of air-conditioning should have been chosen for the solar PV projects first. Likewise, schools with solar PV systems should have been among the top candidates for air-conditioning as well as the ones with the hottest temperatures.

>> HECO should fast-track connections for public school solar PV systems.

>> Solar companies can step up and donate systems to schools. I've seen systems donated to non-profits, but let's make our public schools, which have been neglected far too long, a priority.

>> HECO's Sunpower for Schools program (in place since 1996) ended in July of this year, just when public schools were getting started. Under the program, schools received free, photovoltaic solar electric or solar lighting systems. They were small systems, like the 2 kw solar electric system installed at Waianae Intermediate school in December 2006, made possible through a three-way partnership between HECO, the DOE and community (HECO solicited donations to fund the systems). HECO replaced that program with Smart Power for Schools, which installs and demonstrates emerging technologies, such as battery banks for energy storage and management systems for energy monitoring and management tools. That's all well and good, except for the fact that the majority of our schools aren't outfitted with solar PV yet.

>> So far, I haven't heard NextEra, the  $4.3 billion suitor from Florida seeking to acquire HECO, offer any promises or offers of contributions to Hawaii's public schools, specifically, in any way.

Here are some ideas of how schools across the U.S. have been able to integrate solar into their schools, whether to heat or cool their schools, with significant cost savings and a long-term hedge against rising electricity prices. Many were able to enter power purchase agreements with no upfront costs. The Berkeley Unified School District drew up a district-wide solar master plan and with a U.S. Department of Energy grant, even created a template for other school districts. So it's been done before. With the cost savings, some schools are even able to bring back arts and music programs that had been cut from the budget.

>> Solar parking arrays at Analy High School in Sebastopol, CA (Photo: SunPower).

SunPower-WestSonomaAnalyHighSchool373014-1

>> Check out this 5,750 KW solar project in Plympton, Mass. that powers Plymouth Public Schools (Photo: Greg M. Cooper/ Borrego Solar).

Borrego2-PlymouthPublicSchools72814

>> The Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Ariz. installed more than 2 MW of solar across four schools sites to lock in years of future energy. (Photo courtesy SolarCity). Wow, now that's a commitment to solar!

Scottsdale-School-District

Posted in climate change, solar | Comments Off on Cooling our classrooms

Q&A Chipper Wichman

By
September 18th, 2015



 

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics ranging from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit www.fb.com/2016wcchawaii for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...

iucn_2016_logo_h_en_colour_high_res

Posted in climate change, Conservation, Endangered species, IUCN, IUCN World Conservation Congress | Comments Off on Q&A Chipper Wichman

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives