Damien alumnus helps school make transfer to solar power
The Catholic institution will have lower electricity bills thanks to a PV system
By Kathryn Mykleseth
Damien Memorial School, a private coed school in Kalihi, switched on a 125-kilowatt photovoltaic system Wednesday and plans to use the savings from lower electrical bills to pay for school renovations.
Because of the potential electricity savings from the PV system, the school is closer to its plans of improving the 35-year-old band room, adding a library and a new athletics room, said Bernard Ho, President and CEO at Damien Memorial School.
“Now we are in a position where we started to implement a campus master plan,” Ho said. “Things are kind of moving in place.”
The estimated amount of energy offset by PV is 31 percent of the school’s electrical bill, totaling $25,000 in the first year and$1.5 million over 20 years.
The PV system was installed by Honolulu-based Energy Industries, whose President and COO, Duane Ashimine, is a Damien alumnus. Damien is currently paying 32 cents per kilowatt-hour and expects to bring it down to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour with the power purchasing agreement with Energy Industries.
“The great part about all of these programs is Damien hasn’t paid a dime upfront,” Ashimine said.
“It’s not just giving them a fish. It’s perpetual, this is long term,”?Ashimine said. “It’s hard to ask people to donate money to pay their electric bill.”
As a 1982 Damien graduate, Ashimine was interested in giving back to his alma matter.
“Being an alumnus, I wanted to do something for Damien to kind of help out,” Ashimine said. “I appreciated what they did for me. I was kind of a lost soul until I went there.”
Damien didn’t have the money to buy the PV system, Ho said.
“We just couldn’t do it,” Ho said. “Damien is just one of those schools that focuses on the middle-income and marginalized students to get a Catholic school education.”
As the school couldn’t afford the cost and, as a nonprofit, wouldn’t benefit from the tax credits, Ashimine sought out a private investor to finance the system.
Along with the solar system, Energy Industries retrofitted the campus’ exterior lighting and gym lighting, which is expected to cut 30,000 kilowatt-hours of the school’s energy use for the year.
With the total renovations, Damien will see up to a 40 percent savings on its utility bill, Ashimine said.
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