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Coming soon to a school near us: solar power generation, as already installed at Guilford County School in Surrey through a community-funded Wey Valley Solar project (photo: Angus Macintosh).

Solar energy projects rolling in Bexhill

Innovative energy projects are under way at Glenleigh Park Primary Academy in Sidley and Bexhill Youth and Community Centre, with the introduction of solar power generation as a main aim – not to mention the educative benefits as the projects are implemented. Nick Terdre reports.

The moving force behind the initiative is Energise Sussex Coast, whose head Richard Watson is keen to publicise the benefits to be gained from taking advantage of the financial assistance that is on offer even in these straitened times – these are, in his view, demonstration projects of what can be achieved. Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker, who is also minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, is an enthusiastic supporter of the scheme.

On a visit to Glenleigh Park during the recent Energy Month, he encouraged pupils to come up with sensible ideas for saving energy – turning off the power to TVs or phone-chargers which aren’t in use, putting insulation on the walls or in the loft to keep warmth in, using low-energy or LED light-bulbs, and so on.

MP Greg Barker extols the virtues of energy efficiency at Glenleigh Park Primary Academy (photo: John Cole).

The first stage of the projects involves cutting the power bills through energy-saving measures. These measures, along with the provision of educational materials such as display boards, are being financed by a grant of £10,000 awarded to Energise Sussex Coast by UK Power Networks. The energy-saving measures are based on the recommendations of Chris Collier of energy consultant Keeping Blue who was commissioned to carry out an energy audit. They include upgrading the school’s loft insulation and installing LED light-bulbs in the youth centre.

Chris also recommended that both establishments fit wireless thermostatic radiator valves – these allow the radiators to be individually controlled, allowing the heating to be turned off in unused areas while remaining on in areas where activities are going on. Another recommendation for both school and youth centre was the introduction of a monitoring system, with a prominently placed display unit, to enable an eye to be kept on electricity usage at all times.

This is also a great tool for making young people aware of energy usage, and encouraging them to think how energy can be saved, says Chris. And it is inexpensive – in the case of the school, it will cost just £120 (+ VAT) and pay for itself in just three months. And up on the roof… Chris’s study also looked at the introduction of solar power generation through photovoltaic panels placed on the roofs of the two establishments – this is the second part of the project. For the youth centre he recommended a 10 kilowatt solar array on the roof at a cost of £14,000 and a payback time of seven and a half years.

Meanwhile two options have been proposed for the school – a 48.5 kW and a 150 kW system. The latter would cost some £180,000 and have a payback time of just over six years. There is a double benefit to this move – not only does the government pay a fixed price of 11p per kW-hour for all the energy generated, but any surplus energy is supplied to the national grid at a feed-in tariff of 4.8p per kW-hour.

Financing for the renewable energy schemes will come from a community energy cooperative. This could be the Solar Schools Cooperative, which is linked to energy cooperatives Energy 4 All and Wey Valley Solar Schools – the latter has installed solar power projects at six schools in Surrey, including the one shown in the main picture, and, coincidentally, is working on a project with Christ Church primary school in St Leonards. Both coops have organised community shares issues as part of the fund-raising for their projects, another initiative Richard Watson is keen to see implemented in the Glenleigh project and elsewhere in Rother and Hastings.

Spreading the word: Glenleigh Park staff and pupils with MP Greg Barker, centre, flanked by Richard Watson, left, and Chris Collier, right foreground (photo: John Cole).

From the profits generated by the feed-in tariffs, investors will be paid back at 5% per annum, and the remaining profit will go to the school. “We reckon that over 20 years the school will save about £100,000 on electricity costs through the fixed low price of the solar electricity and energy-saving measures, as well as earning up to £100,000 in shared profits,” Richard says. After 20 years the schools get to own the panels for free, as they continue to generate electricity and income for them. Not a man for hanging around, he hopes to see all the arrangements put in place by April so that the systems can be procured, installed and brought into operation by September.

So, to use the current jargon, what’s not to like about it? In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, the involvement of the students and pupils at the school and the youth centre will, Richard reckons, lead to the creation of champions of energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, who will help spread the word via their families and friends to the wider community. “The renewable energy offer to Glenleigh is available to any school in Sussex and the South-East,” Richard says. “This is hopefully our demonstration school. The Solar Schools Coop will pay for solar panels on any school or community building in Rother and Hastings.”

For more information contact Richard at richard@energisesussexcoast.co.uk or on 01424 719619 or 07854 951325. Wey Valley Solar

Posted 11:49 Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 In: Campaigns

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