Hawai'i Department of Education: Ka Hei

PZSE Engineers have been working with OpTerra Energy Services on engineering the solar installation portion of this outstanding and multi-layered program.

Opterra Energy Services

photocred Opterra Energy Services

photocred Opterra Energy Services


In the 2013-2014 school year, the Hawai'i Department of Education (DOE) spent more than $62 million dollars on electricity, gas, water and sewage costs — a 50 percent increase from over a decade earlier. Every dollar spent on utility costs detracts funding toward accomplishing the core mission of student success. The DOE sought ways to not only reduce its environmental impact, but also to change community practices surrounding energy use.


Choosing OpTerra Energy Services as a partner to design and build this ambitious program, the DOE developed Ka Hei, a five-year sustainability program integrating innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, while reducing energy costs through extensive solar installations and various energy efficiency upgrades. Capturing the congruous relationship between the energy and educational initiatives, the program is aptly titled, Ka Hei, for a specific type of snare made with ropes that the Hawaiian god Maui used to capture the sun in the Hawaiian tradition. Ka Hei also means "to absorb as knowledge or skill."

The far-reaching Ka Hei program offers not only a comprehensive educational comp- onent, but also contributes to the State of Hawai'i's goals to produce 100% renewable energy by 2045. The Ka Hei program envisions achieving long-term sustainability through its efforts to create Net Zero Energy (NZE) campuses to provide clean energy and energy resiliency. A NZE campus is a facility that uses the same amount of energy on an annual basis that it produces through renewable energy generated.


The Ka Hei program strives to deliver quality, project-based curricula with four main themes: hands-on learning, real world application, inquiry-based learning, and college and career readiness. With a greater focus on long-term results, Ka Hei is also focused on increasing student and community consciousness about sustainability and responsible energy use throughout the islands. The island-focused energy curricula, or Island Energy Inquiry, was designed and developed in partnership with Hawai'i- based education partners, and is aligned with Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Hawai'i Content and Performance Standards III.

Students in each grade level experience relevant educational offerings tailored to the unique energy technology that will be implemented at each unique school. This includes solar and energy efficiency kits, in which students become immersed in the science behind solar energy and hone in on problem-solving skills that can be used across multiple subjects. By transforming each school into a living laboratory for energy and STEM education, students interact with the renewable and resource conservation technology via online dashboards that make real-time data analysis and technology integration possible. Additionally, Ka Hei provides STEM career exposure through career-oriented lesson plans that help teachers show students how STEM subjects apply to jobs in the real world.

Ensuring that Ka Hei has impact in the classroom requires ongoing professional development for educators. The professional development sessions, designed and co-authored with DOE stakeholders and OpTerra's Education Team, not only equip teachers with new tools and materials, they nurture enthusiasm for the program's initiatives that gets passed on to students. Educators are provided with a comprehensive STEM energy curriculum that is standards-correlated and inquiry-based, with hands-on lessons. Through the DefinedSTEM platform, which is available to all 255 DOE schools, and partnerships with community organizations like STEMworks, educational resources are put in the hands of District teachers so that they are empowered to bring sustainability concepts to life.


The STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) concept ensured all students (not only STEM pathway students) could be involved in Ka Hei initiatives through an engaging Ka Hei Logo Design Contest. The process of logo design provides an interesting curricular link of designing, building and creative concepts used in both art and STEM subjects. 325 inspiring student entries were received for consideration and a diverse judging panel from the industry, education, and non-profit worlds came together to select student, Tiffany Noda's winning logo

- See more at: http://opterraenergy.com/ps/ka-hei-department-of-education.html#sthash.8AlTzegp.dpuf

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Hawaii Foodbank to save $2.1M in energy costs with new solar energy system

Another example of how sustainable solutions can positively impact communities. Thank you Renusol for choosing PZSE as your on this project for the Hawaii Foodbank. Hawaii is just one of many states PZSE Structural Engineers is licensed.

courtesy Hawaii Food Bank

courtesy Hawaii Food Bank

Pacific Business News

The Hawaii Foodbank expects to save about $2.1 million over the next 25 years on its newly installed rooftop solar energy system, the Honolulu-based nonprofit said Tuesday.

The food bank and California’s REC Solar held a celebration ceremony Tuesday at the food bank’s Oahu warehouse.

In the first year, the nearly 300-kilowatt system is expected to save the food bank about 463,742 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is equivalent to the purchase of more than 102,000 meals, feeding 93 people daily in one year.

The solar energy system is projected to save the food bank about $41,041 in energy costs during the first year of installation.

Last year, the food bank distributed more than 12.8 million pounds of food on Oahu and Kauai, including 4 million pounds of fresh produce.

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PZSE Provides Engineering to Walnut Orchard, Offsets 75% of its Electrical Costs by Going Solar!

PZSE recently provided third party engineering for the PV ground mount installation on this Walnut Orchard solar conversion project.

November 28, 2016

West Sacramento, CA – River Oak Orchards, a proud producer of California’s walnut supply, can say it produces more than just nuts after the successful installation of its solar project. The orchard now produces 280 kWs of solar energy, offsetting its PG&E costs by 75.8% and saving over $63,000 each year. 

River Oak Orchard contracted JKB Energy for the installation of over 880 panels atop a fixed ground mount system. As one of the leading renewable integrators in the state, JKB Energy is helping the agribusiness across California make the transition to solar energy as they reach nearly 100 MWs of installed capacity to-date. 

“Agriculture is as one of the fastest industries to adopt solar in California,” states Chad Cummings, Director of Sales and Marketing for JKB Energy. We have seen over 200 agricultural businesses make the switch to solar to offset energy costs.” 

Like many other farms and orchards, River Oak joins this transition as an opportune way to reduce and control energy expenses. According to JKB Energy, PG&E rates have increased by 4-8% every year on average. 

By going solar, farmers not only benefit from reduced energy costs, but they are no longer impacted by inflation from energy bills,” Cummings explains. Removing this variable cost from a business’ overall operational costs really add up, especially for larger projects. 

To further increase savings and maximize power production, River Oak utilized Mounting Systems’ Sigma Steel ground mounts to support this 280 kW project. The Sigma Steel system was designed in a shared rail configuration, an innovative technique that decreased the amount of rail material by 25%, simplifying logistics and making for a more cost-effective solution.

“Mounting System’s ground mounts were quick and easy to install, which helped keep our installers on schedule,” says Amanda Johnson, Manager of Client Relations for JKB Energy. With a notable reduction in labor time, our installation rate was faster than expected.” 

As with many projects, space constraints served as one of the biggest challenges for JKB Energy’s installers as they collaborated on how to strategically situate the ground mounts without uprooting too many trees or hitting nearby water lines. 

However, these issues were resolved with Sigma Steel’s flexibility and customization, which accommodated these common obstacles. With Sigma Steel’s design flexibility, we were able to install all modules with an additional 24-module array to maximize our customer’s power production,” Johnson states. 

With more design flexibility, modules, power supply, and energy offset, River Oak Walnut Orchard can now reap the benefits of solar power throughout the year and hopefully lead the way for others within the agricultural community. 

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Consumers Energy Starts Operating First Community Solar Power Plant

ALLENDALE, Mich., April 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Days after it closed seven Michigan coal plants, Consumers Energy today started operations at its first large-scale solar project on 17 acres at Grand Valley State University.

"The first location in our Solar Gardens program demonstrates our commitment to building a sustainable future for Michigan," said Dan Malone, Consumers Energy's senior vice president of energy resources. "We are pleased to work with Grand Valley State University to develop a new source of renewable energy that will help power homes and businesses."

The 3-megawatt solar power plant on university property is the largest community solar project in Michigan, generating up to 3 megawatts, or enough electricity to serve 600 homes. The energy provider is building a second site at Western Michigan University, which is expected to open late this summer, and is considering another location in the Lansing area.

Consumers Energy customers are supporting the development of solar energy by enrolling in the new Solar Gardens program. They can express interest and learn more about Solar Gardens online at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/solargardens.

The energy provider has been active in developing renewable energy sources in Michigan. It operates two wind farms, one near Lake Michigan and one in the Thumb, and contracts to buy energy generated by wind, landfill gas, anaerobic digestion and hydroelectric generation.

Consumers Energy also has contracted to buy energy from a 100-megawatt wind farm under construction in Michigan's Thumb and has helped Michigan State University transition its on-campus power plant from coal to natural gas as a fuel source.

"Solar Gardens is part of our commitment to ensure that future generations in Michigan have affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy," Malone said.

Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE:  CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

For more information about Consumers Energy, go to www.ConsumersEnergy.com.