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Belize School Solar Power and Technology Project

Spring Break 2017

March 7-16

A partnership of:

  • Kenyon Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Kenyon Environmental Studies Program
  • Kenyon Center for Global Engagement

This project partners with schools in Belize to design, develop and build grid tie solar power systems for schools, as well as Internet connected computer labs.

In addition the project seeks to educate and train teachers, administrators, students, and ourselves on solar power, technology in education, and related environmental and educational concerns.

Live Solar Data from Belize


Live data feed showing power being generated at current sites. May take a while to load.

March 2017 Spring Break Trip

This spring break Professor Robert Alexander and Professor James Skon will be taking a team of students to Belize to work on building Grid-Tie Solar Systems for five schools. This service project will include learning about solar power systems, working with Belize schools, and seeing Belize and experiencing it's culture, environment, history, and people. We will be taking up to 12 Kenyon students.

Slide Show: KenyonSolarProject2017.pptx

Belize Information:

Application to Participate

  • We will have room for twelve (12) students on this trip. If you wish to participate you will need to apply by November 11
  • Those selected will be notified by November 15.
  • An application fee of $100 is due by November 29;
  • The cost of the trip is $2000 (the application fee counts as part of this). $800 Due by December 15. The balance is due January 15.
  • In addition up to 6 alternates will be selected. If you change your mind, or do not pay your $100 application fee, your slot will pass to the next alternate. It is likely at least some alternates will get to go, so don't give up if you aren't selected on the first round.
  • Application Link

Informational Meetings (2016)

  • When: November 1 and 3 at 6:30 (come as late as 7:00pm if you have a conflict)
  • Location: November 1: Cheever Room - Finn House (Next to Kenyon Inn)
  • Location: November 3: Lentz House 204 (On corner when turning from Wiggins to go to Library Parking Lot)
  • What: Information about participation in the spring break trip to Belize

Training and Prep Meeting

  • There will be 4 required evening training and preparation meetings during January and February.
Passport and Visas
  • US Citizens: A passort is required. If you do not have one you must apply by the end of November. No visa is needed.
  • Non-US Citizens. You will need a US multi-entry visa attached to you non-US passport. Belize will recognize this in place of a US passport.

Grid Tie Solar Power Systems

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Power is expensive in Belize, and schools struggle to pay for the electricity used by their computer labs (it's about the only thing they use power for). After installing computer labs for many years, we decided to explore solar power for schools to reduce their power expenses.

A list of current solar installations constructed under this program in Belize can be found here.

What we do is build "Grid-Tie Solar Systems". What this means is that we generate electricity for the school that reduces the amount of electricity that must be purchased from the electric company. How does it work?

  • The sun shines on the solar panels generating DC electricity
  • The DC electricity is fed into a solar inverter that converts it to 120V 60Hz AC electricity.
  • The 120V AC electricity is used to power appliances in the school.
  • Surplus electricity is fed back into the main grid. (as allowed)
Whenever the sun shines (and even in overcast weather), the solar cells generate electricity. The grid connect inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into 120V AC electricity, which can then be used by the school.

If a grid connect system is producing more power than is being consumed, the surplus is fed into the mains power grid. Some electricity companies will meter the electricity fed into the grid by the system and provide a credit on the bill.

When the solar cells are not producing power, for example at night, the power is supplied by the mains power grid as usual. The energy retailer charges the usual rate for the power used.

Computer Labs

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Schools in Belize need Internet connected computer labs to give students a chance to learn to use this important resource. The challenge is to determine what sort of hardware and software make the best sense given the constraints. There is a longer story here, but what this project does is to help build labs with identical used, off-lease, higher end enterprise class laptops. These laptops, which companies lease for 1-3 years, can be purchased bulk from liquidators after the lease, for a fraction of the original cost. Since they are higher end laptops, the reliability is high, and failure rate low.

Legal versions of MS Windows are essentially not available or sold in Belize. Typically what happens is a school will use a hacked version of windows, which quickly becomes mired with viruses and other exploits since the hacked versions cannot be updated. Because of this we have been advocating the use of Edubuntu Linux. This is an educational version of the popular Ubuntu operating system.

Project Schedule 2017 (proposed, subject to change)

Date Activity
March 7 Travel to Belize (Flight from Columbus, Ohio to Belize City)
March 8 Install Solar Power at Log Cabins (am), Visit Xunantunich Mayan Ruin (pm)
March 9 Install Solar Power at School (am), Visit University of Belize Solar Power Farm (pm)
March 10 Install Solar Power at School (am), Visit Spanish Lookout (pm)
March 11 Jungle River boat cruse to Lamanai Mayan Ruin
March 12 Visit Mountain Pine Ridge, Black Rock (waterfalls and swimming)
March 13 Install Solar Power at School (am), Visit Arenal School Solar Project
March 14 Install Solar Power at School (am), Visit San Antonio School project (pm)
March 15 Install Solar Power at School (am)
March 16 Return to Ohio (Flight from Belize City to Columbus, Ohio)


The trip cost is in the range of $2000 per person. The cost will include all transportation to and in Belize, lodging, all meals, and cost of planned activities in Belize (Such as the river boat cruse).

Important Pre-trip Dates

Date Activity
December 9 $100 Deposit Due
December 15 Total $800 Due (includes deposit)
February 15 Complete Payment Complete - $2000
A $100 deposit is due by December9. $800 total is due by December 15, and the balance by February 15.

Name Email
Meredith Glover glover1@kenyon.edu
Caitlin Kennedy kennedyc@kenyon.edu
Nora Boles boles1@kenyon.edu
Carolina Andrade andraded@kenyon.edu
Hannah Hertz hertzh@kenyon.edu
Teahelahn Keithrafferty keithraffertyt@kenyon.edu
Clara Altfeld altfeldc@kenyon.edu
Jack Zellweger zellwegerj@kenyon.edu
Erin Keleske keleskee@kenyon.edu
Robert Alexander alexanderr@kenyon.edu
Jim Skon skonjp@kenyon.edu


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Panel Sources


-- Jim Skon - 2016-10-26


Faculty Visit

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Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
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PNGpng livesolar.png r1 manage 319.2 K 2016-10-27 - 04:00 JimSkon  
JPEGJPG tucon.JPG r1 manage 468.2 K 2016-10-27 - 13:01 JimSkon  
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Topic revision: r23 - 2016-12-09 - JimSkon
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