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

Trip blog is here.

Project Schedule 2017

Date Activity City Lodging
Tues., March 7 Travel to Belize (Flight from Columbus, Ohio to Belize City) San Ignacio Log Cab-Inn
Wed., March 8 Install Solar Power at Log Cabins (am), Visit Spanish Lookout (pm) San Ignacio Log Cab-Inn
Thur., March 9 Install Solar Power at Faith School (am), Visit Xunantunich Mayan Ruin (pm) San Ignacio Log Cab-Inn
Fri., March 10 Upgrade and check systems at Succutz, Arenal, St. Andrews, Drive to Corazol Corazol Hotel Maya
Sat., March 11 Drive to Sarteneja, Install Solar Power at Sarteneja School Orange Walk Hotel de la Fuente
Sun., March 12 Jungle River boat cruse to Lamanai Mayan Ruin Corazol Hotel Maya
Mon., March 13 Install Solar Power at Corazol Methodist School, to Global Village Ladyville Global Village
Tues., March 14 Out to San Pedro, install Ambergris Caye Elementary San Pedro Belize TREC
Wed., March 15 Install Solar Power at Brighter Tomorrow Pre School, snorkeling San Pedro Belize TREC
Thurs., March 16 Return to Ohio (Flight from Belize City to Columbus, Ohio) Gambier Kenyon

Important Phone Numbers

  • Jim Skon - USA: 740-358-9417, Belize: 011-501-621-7841
  • Rob Alexander - USA: 434-941-9575, Belize: 011-501-628-4293
  • Center for Global Engagement - Marne-740-501-0269, Meghan Mason 330-612-1717

Belize Information:

Flight Information

Flight Date Depart Arrive
DELTA 2419 Tue, MAR 7 COLUMBUS, OH 6:53am ATLANTA 8:49am
DELTA 695 Thu, MAR 16 BELIZE CITY, BELIZE 11:50am ATLANTA 4:48pm
DELTA 1897 Thu, MAR 16 ATLANTA 9:06pm COLUMBUS, OH 10:45pm

Departure and arrival information

  • You will need to fill out a spring break housing form is you need to stay on campus any days before or after the trip (March 6 and March 16 are likely). If your dorm is closed you will need to find a friend with an open dorm.
  • Be waiting, in from of the college bookstore at 4:30am. We will load and leave at 4:45am sharp.
  • We will likely return to campus around 11:00pm on March 16. It may be later.
  • Alternatively you may get to the airport on your own by 5:45. You may also have someone pick you up at the airport at 9:00-10:00pm. I will need to know if you plan to do either.

Packing List

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 February 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 3 required evening training and preparation meetings during January and February.
  • For meetings 2 and 3 feel free to bring your cafeteria meals.
1. Thursday, Jan 19 9:00-10:00 pm Timberlake, Evens Room
2. Tuesday, Feb 7 5:00-6:00 pm Pierce L09 (Computer Lab)
3. Tuesday, Feb 21 5:00-6:00 pm Pierce L09 (Computer Lab)

Meeting 3 Agenda

  1. Travel Information Google Form: Form
  2. Medical and other forms from CGE
  3. Lisa talk
  4. Blog
  5. Belize History
  6. Reports from project teams
  7. Questions
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

IMG_5333.jpg PullingPanelUpSuccotz.JPG StAndrewsMovingPanel.JPG IMG_5258.jpg IMG_5775.jpg
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

IMG_0349.JPG IMG_0338.JPG Lab1.JPG IMG_0890.JPG Kids.JPG
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.


The trip cost is $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 Solar Class Power Audit
Meredith Glover glover1@kenyon.edu X  
Caitlin Kennedy kennedyc@kenyon.edu X  
Nora Boles boles1@kenyon.edu X  
Carolina Andrade andraded@kenyon.edu   X
Hannah Hertz hertzh@kenyon.edu X  
Teahelahn Keithrafferty keithraffertyt@kenyon.edu   X
Clara Altfeld altfeldc@kenyon.edu X  
Erin Keleske keleskee@kenyon.edu   X
Robert Alexander alexanderr@kenyon.edu   X
Jim Skon skonjp@kenyon.edu X  
Lisa Dianne Swaim swaiml@kenyon.edu    
Doug Karl doug@dougkarl.com    


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Panel Sources


-- Jim Skon - 2016-10-26


Faculty Visit

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