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As of June 20, 2018

Project Background

San Pedro Primary School, Ambergis Caye, BelizeWith sponsorship seed-funding from ELECTRI International, The University of Kansas' NECA Student Chapter is teaming up with Richard W. McBride from Southern Contracting Company in San Diego along with electrical contracting firms in San Pedro to design, procure, install, and commission a photovoltaic (PV) system for the San Pedro Primary School in Ambergis Caye, Belize.

Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and San Pedro is the only town on the island. The Caye receives its power from Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) on the mainland via a 34.5 kV submarine cable and supplements this supply with diesel generators on the island.

Ambergis Caye 34.5-kV SubstationThe island's electric power supply is both unreliable and expensive costing the San Pedro Primary School about $0.25 USD per kilowatthour (kWh). Energy savings that result from the installation and operation of the PV system will be used by the school to purchase additional books and teaching supplies for the children.


Original Project Plan

The planned PV system originally included both roof- and ground-mounted PV arrays as shown in the accompanying set of construction documents prepared by KU students as part of their senior design course during Spring Semester 2012. The roof-mounted system was to be installed on the roof of the new library building that was donated to the school by Danish benefactors in 2009.

The ground-mounted array was to be installed on a raised structure designed for this purpose that was planned to be adjacent to the library building. This raised structure would not only provide support for the ground-mounted PV array but also provide a shady outdoor area for small student gatherings and activities such as picnic lunches. The two PV arrays were to be tied into the existing 120/240-volt library building electrical service that provides power for the library building as well as the newly renovated cafeteria in the main school building.

Current Project Status

BEL reviewed the planned design and requested that the planned PV installation be a standalone system with battery storage rather than the planned utility interactive system. BEL currently does not have experience or provisions for parallel on-site distributed generation systems or a net metering rate schedule. Due to the increased initial installation cost and ongoing expense of maintaining the battery system over the life of the installation, it was decided to wait until BEL has an installation standard and a net metering rate schedule for parallel on-site distributed generation before proceeding with the project. BEL currently has a pilot PV project on the mainland and plans to begin to approving private parallel on-site distributed generation projects in late 2013.

San Pedro Primary School, New LibraryAfter reviewing the PV system design and the library roof structure, the Belize electrical contractors recommended that PV panels not be mounted on the library roof. Instead, they suggested that the outdoor shelter be expanded in size and the entire PV array placed on the new shelter roof. The PV system will be redesigned by KU students based on the Belize electrical contractors' recommendation.

Planned Project Completion

KU students will redesign the PV system for the San Pedro Primary School this fall and submit the revised construction documents to EI and the Belize electrical contractors for review and comment.  The schedule for completing the PV system installation will depend on BEL's approval of the design and on the availability of funding, material and equipment donations, school schedules, and Belize electrical contractor partner schedules. It is hoped that the project can be completed Spring Semester 2014.

Construction Documents

Download the Construction Documents (PDF)  for San Pedro Primary School in Belize provided by the University of Kansas NECA Student chapter team.

Project Update

Faculty Advisor, Thomas E. Glavinich, provided the following update report about the Belize-project at the 2012 NECA International Meeting in Las Vegas:

Belize Project Update, 2012 (PPT)