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Solar panel project marks first step in big energy savings at UH Hilo

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Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa – Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo has turned on the first in a series of PV (solar) panels designed to promote energy efficiency through greater use of renewable sources. The solar panels are located on the building that houses UH Hilo’s Kipuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, in the area known as “Redwood City.”

The project was the inspiration of Gail Makuakane-Lundin, director, Kipuka, and a founding member of the Sustainability Committee. Makuakane-Lundin secured funding for the project in a Title III Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions renovation grant obtained from the U.S. Department of Education in FY 2005-2006. She said much can be learned from the practices of Native Hawaiians and their kinship with the environment.

“Our ancestors had a special harmonious relationship with the environment that provides a working model for meeting the challenges of a growing population and limited resources,” Makuakane–Lundin said. “They understood that the resources you preserve today through smart, sustainable practices will insure that future generations enjoy a comparable quality of life.”

The panels were purchased some time ago, but the project was delayed while legalities of the interconnectivity agreement between the University and Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company (HELCO) were worked out. The agreement was finally completed last week, clearing the way for the PV panels to be turned on.

The panels generate approximately 10.15 kilowatts of energy, resulting in a total savings of 11,195 kilowatt hours. Dr. Debra Fitzsimons, vice chancellor for administrative affairs, said the achievement might seem small by itself, but is significant in the bigger picture.

“We’re currently working on several different strategies to obtain funding for a large-scale, campuswide solar panel project that has the potential to generate up to 600 kilowatts,” Fitzsimons said. “What makes this project so important is that it provides us with the prototype interconnectivity agreement that will facilitate the installation of additional PV panels in the near future.”

The Kipuka solar panel project is just one of the energy savings/sustainability initiatives UH Hilo has undertaken during the past year.

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