Power for Schools Equals Power for Younger Generations

 

Today’s schools have the opportunity to role model sustainability practices for children.  Minimising waste, promoting biodiversity, saving both energy and water teach our children how to take care of the earth.  Actions that not only benefit their school and community, but works towards lessening the impact of climate change.
 

The good news is that by adopting sustainability schools not only save money, but teach valuable and interesting lessons to children.

There are many school programs across Australia that help schools, for example:

Call for Action!

 

  • Do you know how many carbon emissions your school consumes?

  • Do you have solar PV? (S\see A below)

  • Do you have kitchen gardens? (see B below)

  • Are your lights powered by LEDs?

  • Do you promote kids walking/bike riding to school?

  • Have you consider smart meters to manage your appliances and to engage students?

  • How well do you manage your waste?

  • Most importantly, how fun are you making this for kids?  

 

Understanding the importance of sustainable practices is critical for everyone and making it fun makes it easier to learn.

A great starting point is to introduce solar into your school and further information is provided below for those starting on this journey.  There is also additional information on growing food at schools. As this is an engaging way for children to learn about food production and good eating habits.
 

Factors to Consider with Solar Panels

 

Solar not only saves you money, but can also powerfully engage students with LED screens that display real-time energy school usage and energy production from the solar panels.  It’s an exciting way to teach children about renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction.

The type of solar panels you choose are critical to the amount of money you will save and how quickly you will repay your return on investments.  The most commonly adopted programs are solar PV systems installations. But there a lot more details that need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

 

For example, Richard West Primary received advice from both Yarra Energy Foundation and Cherry Energy Solutions that took into account their energy usage and current system.  Through accessing grants, their system was reduced to around $12,000. This ensured their project was cash flow positive over the life of the funding period.

 

The school installed solar panels and replaced existing lights to LEDs. This has provided annual savings of over $13,000. With energy savings of over 52 kWh per year and annual emission reductions of more than 66 tonnes.  LED screens were also installed at the school to display real time energy use.

 

A PV solar system can be viable, but make sure you procure the right solar PV technology to ensure that you are taking all aspects into account.  To help you we have provided you with further information to consider when choosing your preferred vendor.

 

10 Items to Consider When Choosing Solar

1. Technology Choice

Sometimes solar isn’t viable and you need to consider whether solar PV is the best renewable energy source or another solution.  See page 35 Behind the Meter solar Financing toolkit.Is solar the right electricity system for you?

2. PV System Size

The size of the system must be carefully considered given the cost implications. Large is not always better so if you want to get the best return on your investment please see attached. Please refer to page 38 of the Behind the Meter Solar PV funding Guidebook for further information.  Have you compared the difference between a smaller or larger system?

 

3. Initial prefeasibility

It is a good idea to get an initial quote from a solar provider to understand the business case stakes up.

Some factors to include in the business case are:

  • To source your own energy (security of supply).

  • The potential reduction in energy costs.

  • Helping the planet.

  • The cost of connecting to the network.

  • The importance of teaching children sustainability in an engaging manner.

  • Have you received different quotes that help you consider the above factors?


4. Site Selection

There is a need to consider a number of factors such as roof space or available land, shading considerations, orientation.  See page 58 Behind the meter financing guidebook.

Have you looked at the best place to install your solar system?

5. Solar Technology Provider

When choosing to install solar power there are many factors to consider and we recommend some of these factors in the attached guide:

  • Technical specifications

  • Accreditation requirements (please see attached link to frontier Impact Group – solar Accreditation checklist)

  • Experience

  • Warranties

  • Documentation

  • Safety standards

  • Maintenance requirements.

Please note we plan to release a checklist for procurement of solar technology providers that will cover all the items above – watch this space!
 

6. Network Connection

The network cost is a factor that can make a project not stack up financially. You may have undertaken some initial review in pre-feasibility, but further detail may need to be gathered at this stage.  Please consider the technical and financial implications. Speak to your solar supplier or speak to your network operator. See page 71 Behind the Meter Solar PV funding Guidebook. Do you know how much the network connection cost will be?

7. Permits

Solar panels require council permits.  Find out what rules apply in your location.

Please see page 76 Behind the Meter Solar PV Funding Guidebook.

Have you enquired about council permits?
 

8. Budget and Return

The solar technology provider that is chosen will provide you the key capital and operational costs. Please ensure that you have the budget to do this or explore other financial options that may help to provide finance upfront.

There are different financing models where there is no need to provide upfront funding and the most common ones are provided below:

- Operating and finance leases

- Electricity Power Purchase Agreements – this enables you to fund through your electricity costs.

Seek advice on the best financing option as schools often face restrictions.

Have you sought financial advice?
 

9. Smart Metering

Consider using a smart meter that measures total energy use at the school and then reports the number back to you via your energy company

  • If there is a solar system on the roof and electricity is being generated, then the smart meter can also measure how much energy is flowing in the opposite direction, back into the grid. 

  • The smart meter will also perform a net metering function which will allow solar power generated at the school to be used at the school before any excess gets sent back into the grid.

  • Smart metering enables you to carefully monitor whether your solar PV system is working optimally.  For example, there may be cases where an inverter has been switched off and schools have not been aware their solar solution has not been working!

10. Electricity Contract

The school may just choose a power purchase agreement to fund the project and they can consider selling electricity into the community. Note - you need an energy retailer or your solar PV provider may be able to help.

Have you made enquiries about selling energy back into the grid?

If you are interested in a solar PV system or any other emerging technologies and require advice, we are happy to assist.