Installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on the roof of the Gemini North building on Maunakea is now well underway. Gemini’s head mechanical engineer Chas Cavedoni is managing the project with assistance from Steve Hardash, Gemini’s head of engineering operations. Hardash reports that the panels are expected to generate about 10% of the power required to operate the Maunakea facility.
PV systems operating on Maunakea are more efficient than at sea level for three important reasons. First, Maunakea receives on average 6.4 peak sun hours a day as opposed to Hilo, with only 4.6 peak sun hours a day resulting in a 39% benefit. Second, PV systems operating on Maunakea at low summit temperatures of ~45º F versus ~80º F at sea level, result in another 10% improvement in performance. Finally, PV systems operating 13,750 ft above sea level, where the sun is more intense due to reduced atmospheric absorption, results in an additional 10% benefit.
Altogether, the solar panels that are being installed at the Gemini North building on Maunakea will be 69% more energy efficient than the panels planned for installation on the Hilo Base Facility. Calculations show that it it should take less than four years for the solar panels to pay back the initial investment.
At the time of posting, about 80% of the project has been completed. Watch for updates while work progresses between now and the project’s expected completion date near the end of August this year.
Gemini is deeply committed to continuing our positive stewardship of both Maunakea, and our planet.
EDIT: A previous version of this post claimed 159% overall benefit. This was an error and has been corrected to 69% overall benefit.