Signing up for solar

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change released a report outlining the benefits to schools of going solar, including reduced electricity bills, revenue generation, reducing CO2 emissions, as well as improved education and engagement.
    
The paper goes on to say, “taking these benefits into consideration, the business, moral and educational case for installing solar PV in schools is very compelling.”
    
Greg Barker, the minister for Energy and Climate Change has estimated that if all 22,000 English schools installed solar PV, £500,000,000 could be saved each year.
    
Every school has the potential to generate its own renewable energy, and many Eco-Schools are leading the way in this solar revolution.
    
Eco-Schools have teamed up with PV Solar companies to help provide schools with a cost neutral package to allow the installation of Solar PV panels on their premises. Schools will benefit from free generated electricity, therefore reducing electricity bills, and also gain an income from the government backed Feed in Tariff Scheme for 20 years.
    
Eco-schools and its partners have successfully installed over 100 schools making a huge impact on reducing carbon emmissions, releasing vital finances to schools and also educating the younger generation in renewable energies.

What is Solar PV?
Solar Photovoltaics, or Solar PV for short, is a technology in which daylight is converted into electrical power. Solar PV takes advantage of energy from the sun to create electricity, that will operate electrical appliances and lighting.
    
For the installation of Solar PV panels, a clear, uninterrupted and unshaded section of roof is preferred, with south or near south orientation on either a pitched or flat roof. The roof needs to be large enough to accommodate the Solar PV modules, structurally sound and built using materials that are compatible with a fixing system that is readily available.
    
Direct or diffuse light shining on the Solar PV cells induces the photovoltaic effect, generating direct current (DC) electrical power. This electricity can be converted to alternating current (AC) power for use in the building or if more power is generated, the surplus will be exported to the National Grid.
    
Under the UK government Feed in Tariffs scheme (Clean Energy Cashback) qualifying individuals or groups who install Solar PV can benefit from regular payments.
    
Before an investment is made in renewable energy or low carbon energy systems Eco-Schools recommend that the building owner should make sure the building is already as energy efficient as possible, so that the Solar PV energy generated is not wasted. The building owner should ensure that the building has adequate loft and cavity wall insulation, efficient central heating controls, all old light bulbs have been replaced with low energy lighting and energy saving domestic appliances have been installed.

A proud eco-school
Manningtree High School, a small secondary school based in Essex, installed a 47.5kWh Solar PV array with the ability to remote monitor the energy production via the internet.
    
Solar PV from Evogreen was chosen as it encompasses what they were trying to achieve – reduce costs while maintaing standards – and requires no capital expenditure through the Carbon Trust approved funding. In addition, they are a proud Eco-School and were keen to communicate to the students and the wider community, the benefits of sustainability through a working example of renewable technology in their own school.
    
The funding allows the school to keep the Government backed Feed-in-Tariff, enabling Manningtree High School to produce an income of £147,230 over the projects 20 year lifespan. They are also able to make a significant reduction in CO2 emissions; over the project lifespan, it will equate to 438 tonnes saved.
    
Headteacher Deborah Hollister said: “Students at Manningtree High School have taken a keen, committed interest in caring for our environment for a number of years. The school council have been involved in discussions about solar power and the proposalst hat the Governors considered. As a forward looking school we have shown that we can achieve significant benefits for ourselves and for the community by committing to a long term renewable energy scheme.”

An interest in renewables
Another school that has installed Solar PV is Queensbury Academy, a large secondary school based in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

They have recently been recognised as a good school by OFSTED and is rapidly moving towards becoming outstanding. Continuously looking for ways to improve and being an Eco-School they are very conscious about their surroundings and environment. Site manager Tony Cella has an active interest in renewables having already installed at his own residence and was very keen to find out how the Academy could benefit.
    
Apart from the financial savings to be made and income from the current government incentives, Cella felt it was important for the benefit of future generations to preserve the stocks of fossil fuels for as long as possible. Queensbury Academy has a vast expanse of flat roof area perfect for the installation of Solar PV and they have used the more recently resurfaced areas for their install.
    
Over the past years they have put measures in place to reduce energy consumption and installing Solar PV was the next step towards their goal of saving energy and offsetting cost increases. The Academy have installed a 88.25kWp Solar PV array with the ability to remote monitor the energy production via the internet.
    
Working with Evogreen plc they were able to embark on this project with no net cost required from the outset using their Carbon Trust approved funding. Not only does the school benefit from producing its own energy, it also allows the school to keep the Government backed Feed-in-Tariff, enabling the Queensbury Academy to produce an income of £379,379 over the projects 20 year lifespan.
    
Site manager Tony Cella said: “As an individual I have had a long standing interest in energy saving and renewable energy both at home and at work. The obvious cost savings on imported energy and the income from the Feed in Tariff scheme were a prime consideration.

However the other benefits such as an increased awareness of energy issues among both students and staff together with the chance to monitor and use the data produced to give feedback and directly build this data into lessons.
 
Reducing the Academy’s carbon footprint will show that we are doing our part in reducing our impact on the environment for today and for years to come. Despite an aging set of buildings we have managed to build in modern technology systems that will produce a proportion of our power and protect us financially from future energy demands.”

Further information
www.eco-schools.org.uk

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