Schools are becoming partially powered by the sun, thanks to a solar power scheme which has involved the coming together of community organisations, the council and residents.
Local sustainability group Ealing Transition offered residents a chance to invest in clean energy for pupils by paying for solar panels through ‘crowd-funding’ via the Schools Energy Co-Operative. Ealing Council helped by finding schools that were suitable for the scheme and willing to take part,
and got the relevant paperwork done.
The panels will convert energy from the sun into electricity to power the school buildings – and the whole process will be used by schools to teach children about solar power, science and the environment.
Schools Energy Co-Operative offers the schools a deal where they have a 20-year fixed electricity charge of 9p (the going rate is about 14p) meaning each school will save money.
And, when the panels produce more energy than a school requires, it will be fed into the National Grid – and any money the Schools Energy Co-Operative receives from this will be profit-shared with the schools. The crowd-funding investors will make their money back in a similar way.
The very first school in the borough to benefit was Castlebar Primary in Ealing. Its new solar panels were installed in 2016, as we reported at the time.
‘UNDERSTANDING GREEN ENERGY’
More local schools have since followed suit with the council’s help – including five over the course of the summer. One of these was Lady Margaret Primary School, in Lady Margaret Road, Southall.
Amanda Hancock, school business manager at Lady Margaret, said the panels were very quickly generating more energy than had been forecast because of the sunny summer and autumn.
She said: “We are delighted that our school was selected for the installation. We are pleased to be making a contribution to saving the environment and reducing our carbon footprint, and it will also give the children an understanding of green energy. The solar panels are something we wouldn’t have been able to afford ourselves.”
Another of the schools to have panels installed this summer was Wood End Infant School in Whitton Avenue West, Northolt. You can see members of its school council (pupils) in front of the school and the new solar panels at the top of this article.
Wood End’s headteacher Madhu Bhachu said: “Team Wood End is very pleased we have now become more energy efficient thanks to the solar panels. As eco champions, we are thrilled to be able to make a difference to our environment and help look after our planet for the future of all our children.”
‘CLEAN ENERGY FOR 20 YEARS OR MORE’
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for schools and children’s services, said: “This solar project is a win-win for the whole borough. The panels will generate clean energy for 20 years or more, and it is a great way to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
“And, as well as being a greener way to generate energy, the panels will save the schools thousands of pounds by cutting their bills. And It is effectively a community-funded project, so it hasn’t cost the council anything other than officers’ time.
“What is more, the panels will also provide pupils with an excellent, hands-on opportunity for learning about green energy, which will undoubtedly be a big part of their future.
“I would like to thank Ealing Transition, the Schools Energy Co- Operative and the members of the community who backed this scheme for making it possible.”
Ealing Transition is now offering local schools free energy surveys – to find ways for any interested school to save energy and costs even if its building is not suitable for solar panels.