Flying Start looks at the increasing number of solar panel installations in schools across the UK and the difference that renewable energy can make to our environment.
Words: Olivia Frances
More than ever, people are attempting to live as ‘green’ as possible. From recycling to car sharing, many are adapting a new way of living in order to help reduce the size of their carbon footprint.
The country is also starting to see a gradual shift in the type of energy that we use and one change that can make a big difference is the use of solar panels as a cleaner form of energy. As one school in Lincolnshire recently proved, harvesting the sun’s powerful energy doesn’t have to be confined to just our homes.
In an effort to boost funds and teach pupils about renewable energy, plans to place 42 solar panels on the roof of Stamford Queen Eleanor School were approved at the end of September.
The panels, which should be fitted by the start of November, will cost about £30,000 to install, £20,000 of which will come from a grant from Stamford-based Cummins Generator Technologies. “The project to install energy saving solar panels at the college fits well with our aims of bringing benefits to local education and the environment, but also gave our local engineers the chance to bring their technical expertise to the team at the college, helping prepare the specifications for the solar panels and making this project a reality,” George Swindale from Cummins Generator Technologies told Flying Start.
After the installation, the school will be able to support a proportion of its own energy needs during term-time, therefore reducing its electricity bill, and during the holidays it can even sell the energy back to the grid. Additionally, it gives children the opportunity to learn about what being green really means and to demonstrate firsthand what it provides.
Cummins Generator Technologies believes that we will start see an increasing number of schools turning to renewable energy: “Schools will potentially install even larger solar panels as technology continues to progress. Renewable energy is becoming a more and more popular sustainable and eco-friendly source of electricity.”
In September, British Gas announced a new, updated Generation Green programme, a practical and innovative schools and education programme, originally launched in 2008, which is dedicated to helping UK schools community become sustainable for 2020.
It works to empower teachers to drive real and measurable changes in their schools and communities through providing free teaching resources on sustainability and a termly prize draw for schools to win practical prizes, like solar panel installations and biomass boilers.
This year, through its ‘MySolar School’ solar panel competition, British Gas invested £15m in providing solar panel installations for up to 750 schools across England, Scotland and Wales, worth as much as £40,000 per installation. The long-term investment in solar panels will enable schools to benefit from solar energy, cut down on energy costs and help reduce their carbon emissions. It’s also a valuable lesson for pupils to use energy more sparingly and, where possible, to generate it from renewable resources.
As the country’s gas and oil reserves decline and as we become more reliant on imports, renewable energy and micro-generation is making an increasingly important contribution in both energy generation and tackling climate change. But through greener behaviour, UK schools really can help make a big difference to our environment.
The benefits of school panel installation:
- Schools can use the solar panels to generate their own free electricity, cutting their annual electricity bill by as much as 20 per cent.
- The panels help schools meet their carbon reduction targets, reducing emissions by up to 1,400 tonnes per year (equivalent to taking almost 400 cars off the road).
· Cutting down on energy costs brings sustainability to life and is a valuable lesson for pupils, teachers and parents on how greener energy can help the environment.