It’s great to see the Guam Department of Education is trying to save money on power, so it can reinvest the savings back into repairs so desperately needed at our schools. But with all plans, this has concerns that I wonder if GDOE has looked into:
1) Solar panel systems normally need to be cleaned two to four times a year depending on the environment. Poor maintenance would cause the system to become less efficient and the savings would drop. Maintenance isn’t a GDOE strong point. The 12-year-old Okkodo High School gym already has to use trashcans to catch the water from a leaking roof.
2) A telecom technician from Saipan reported that he saw “extensive damage” to most of the solar panel systems around the towers he worked on after typhoon Yutu. So, I hope the plan is to use a power purchasing agreement or also purchase adequate insurance so we will not be left out in the dark should any of the systems become damaged in a storm.
3) Solar panel systems typically don’t start realizing any savings until the fourth to seventh year depending on the size. And now the additional requirement that all new solar panel systems need to have battery support might push the savings time frame back several more years after that. And systems are only good for about 20 to 25 years depending on the environment.
4) How much of each school’s power bill is from the night games? GDOE will probably still need the grid to power the lights.
5) Maybe the money this plan is going to cost could be better spent in other ways without assuming as much risk and also get immediate savings: Converting to LED lights could save 50% off the light portion of the power bill – even more in gyms. Cutting the power cords to all the water fountains that have compressors running but are not producing cold water could save a lot. And, this is free. Fixing the air conditioners so that teachers could turn them off at night and over the weekend without the fear that they won’t turn on again could save a lot.
How much is solar going to cost and how much is the expected saving? This would definitely influence support, but we are not told about it.
There is also the question can repairs wait for seven years or is this money needed now? The Legislature has proven its reluctance to fund education and probably won’t spring for both. Benavente Middle School students shouldn’t have to wait 10 years to get covered walkways, especially in light of what’s happening now. Providing our students with a healthy environment should be job No. 1. Sen. Moylan has reached out to several schools to help and now needs our support to help push that agenda.
Gary Kuper is a Benavente Middle School PTO team member