Our Islands, Our Future

PV StudentsWhen a state-of-the-art photovoltaic (PV) system was installed on the roof of the Ke Alahele building in the Maui Research and Technology Park, a unique opportunity presented itself for two Maui students to show what they could
contribute. The PV system is linked to a sophisticated energy storage system, demonstrating the technical potential of cutting-edge technologies as Maui County moves to increase renewable energy sources and reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuel.

It took Kurt Rasos and Nick Mahoney, working as interns with the Maui Economic Development Board in Spring 2010, to explain the system details clearly and concisely in terms a nontechnical audience can understand – an important
teaching tool. The final display makes it readily apparent that the technology demonstrated here can be scaled up to make larger renewable energy generation with battery storage installations a reality. The PV system not only powers parts of the Ke Alahele building, but the batteries serve as a buffer to the MECO system and turn the training room into an emergency preparedness facility with back-up power.

Nick, a senior at King Kekaulike High School, and Kurt, a recent graduate of Maui High School who currently attends the Art Institute of Portland, are both Project EAST students. They joined forces to create a series of explanatory
displays on the PV energy system and an informative brochure for people to take with them. Nick, the engineering half of the team, explains the process: “We took what we learned about PV panels and put it together so we could explain it to people who don’t have any background in electricity or technology.” Kurt, the graphic designer, comments: “It was really fun. I learned a lot about the technology and I enjoyed working on the explanations.” Both interns say they have been inspired by what they learned. “It’s all part of the learning stream,” says Nick.