All about the New Zealand Solar Schools Programme

Reprinted with permission of SEANZ member Power Technology

Every school could have a solar array on the roof. Schools are a long term investment in our communities, and solar on the roof of a school enhances this long term investment with impressive guarantees. A solar array produces energy during daylight hours, which is when electricity is needed most in schools. During daylights hours students are in school, which means that electricity is used to assist in educational activities. Long term, a solar array will definitely save a school money on their power expenditure. If a school is not financially able to purchase a large solar array in first instance, they can easily start small and add more solar panels over time. There is a solar solution available for every and any school in New Zealand.

An arial photo of Otonga School showing several buildings with solar panels on the roof.(See above, Otonga School with arrays on several roof areas - Genesis Energy School-gen/Power Technology)

According to the Sustainable Energy Association New Zealand (SEANZ) solar is now the largest form of new generation being installed around the world. Transpower supports that stating that 58% of all households and 25% of all businesses will have solar panels installed by 2050 – but what about schools? It is possible for schools to gain full control over their energy usage through the installation of a solar array on their premises. This will enable them to monitor their usage, cut down costs and even sell back to the grid or to other schools as well as key people in their community through the usage of a Local Energy Market. In addition to these pros, students will learn about with renewable energy and its positive effects – carrying this knowledge and understanding with them throughout their lives.

Solar in schools over the last decade

The first school installs that Power Technology was responsible for were under the banner of the Genesis School-gen programme. Through this programme Power Technology supported schools across New Zealand, and built up the necessary experience concerning the installation of solar arrays on schools. Power Technology has installed solar on to more schools than any other solar company in New Zealand.

Creation of the New Zealand Solar Schools programme

After Power Technology and the Genesis School-gen programme parted ways, Power Technology created the New Zealand Solar Schools programme. Power Technology has made sure that the New Zealand Solar Schools programme is made available to every school, anywhere in New Zealand – as every school should be able to install solar on to the roof of their school.

The New Zealand Solar Schools programme consists of 6 main components to ensure a tailored solution is created to meet the needs of every school:

• The first component is financing
• The second component is design, supply & installation of the solar power system
• The third component is monitoring & data sharing
• The fourth component is an educational learning experience for the students
• The fifth component is the STEM based educational programme
• The final component is use of Local Energy Markets, through Power Technology’s partnership with Our Energy

If you are interested in reading more about the 6 main components of Power Technology’s New Zealand Solar Schools programme, please click here.

First school install under the new banner

After the introduction of the New Zealand Solar Schools programme, it did not take long for the first school install to take place. The first school that enjoyed the educational facets of the programme and the high quality installation process was Avalon Intermediate School. The installation took place in 2017, Power Technology installed a 20kW system on their school.

"Power Technology installed two solar arrays generating a total of 20 kW peak of electricity on the roof of our school. This has enabled our school to be generating electricity from a renewable source where all of the students can see it. We are very proud to be the first school in the new 'New Zealand Solar Schools programme'! We enjoyed the experience and support provided, as well as the innovative new initiatives we have been involved with in their new school programme." – Ian Hastie, Principal Avalon Intermediate School

two Avalon Intermediate school students stand in front of a classroom with new solar panels on the roof(see above, Avalon Intermediate School students posing in front of their new solar array)

Larger arrays on educational facilities in recent years

Power Technology has the largest portfolio of large arrays installed on schools throughout New Zealand. We have added a list of 6 large arrays installed by Power Technology:

• Russell School – Russell – 12kW array
• Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp – 60kW array (off-grid with a battery bank)
• Otonga School – Rotorua – 60kW array
• Avalon Intermediate School – Lower Hutt – 20kW array
• Flanshaw Road School – West Auckland – 25kW array
• Henderson Primary – West Auckland – 20Kw array"

At Henderson Primary School our tamariki investigated how we can create a more sustainable learning environment. With assistance from Maggie at Power Technology Henderson Primary School students came up with a proposal that Solar be installed at our kura. Their presentation to our Board of Trustees was very persuasive and we decided to accept the proposal. The team at Power Technology were efficient and professional and the installation process was hassle free for us. We look forward to many years of continuing to enhance tamariki learning by providing a sustainable living environment." – Tony Biddick, Principal Henderson Primary.

A group of Henderson Primary students sit on the ground in front of a classroom with solar panels on the roof. They are waving for a drone photo.(see above, Henderson Primary Students and teachers waving for a drone photo)

New Zealand Solar Schools programme manager

Power Technology’s New Zealand Solar Schools programme manager is Maggie Twaddle. Maggie is an ex-Principal, teacher and an educational leader in New Zealand. She has been at the cutting edge of new programmes and possesses a large amount of experience in both the state and independent school sector. In the last twelve years, Maggie has used her experience to develop education programmes about solar energy and energy efficiency. She had a major role in developing the Schoolgen programme, and has been a key influence in the development of the New Zealand Solar Schools programme at Power Technology.

"Maggie held regular workshops with our lead students and the resources she developed to support the programme were excellent. Each aspect was levelled according to the New Zealand curriculum, including authentic learning tasks. She inspired the children to become aware of the positive effect they could have on the planet, by using renewable energy sources." – Beth Noakes, Principal May Road School

With the New Zealand Solar Schools programme, Maggie supports schools enabling them to have large solar arrays on their premises’. In addition to this, she supports and enables teachers to educate students about renewable energy – preparing them for their future.  The educational journey she offers is completely in-line with the required curriculum outcomes in New Zealand schools. Supporting schools with this personal interaction with teachers and students is unique – there is nothing else like it in New Zealand!

Local Energy Market

A Local Energy Market (LEM) is, in short, an energy sharing platform for communities to share their power with one another. This enables consumers in communities who have a surplus of energy from their own renewable energy sources to sell or gift it within their LEM, and in turn for consumers with a deficit of energy to purchase it. This creates a local marketplace for communities to take control of their own energy consumption, limiting the necessity of a large energy retailer.

Why is a Local Energy Market beneficial?

The main reason that LEM’s are beneficial is because of their ability to limit the reliance of consumers on established energy retailers. An LEM gives the power to people, and grants them the ability to create their own communal marketplace on which they can share power. This offers the consumer a large amount of flexibility, efficient power usage and in the long run a strengthened communal feeling.

Our Energy and Power Technology Partnership

The implementation of the Local Energy Market initiative requires software and hardware based solutions. The software side of the initiative will be fulfilled by Our Energy, a registered energy retailer, who will provide their peer-to-peer based energy trading software named lemonade. Power Technology will provide the hardware side of this initiative, which consists of the solar modelling and installation.

Together they will strive to implement LEM’s into schools across New Zealand, educating children further on the usage and payment of energy. Power Technology has already been educating children in the past through said program.
 
Want to learn more about this joint venture? Read Craig Greaves’ dedicated article here.

To conclude

The main goal of the New Zealand Solar Schools programme is to support every school in New Zealand to enable them to enjoy the benefits of having a solar array on the roof of their school. Furthermore, we strive to teach children how solar energy and energy efficiency works in a fun and exciting way that will foster the imagination of our future leaders and decision makers.

We hope that in the years to come, ‘A solar array installed on a school by the New Zealand Solar Schools programme’ will become a collocation – meaning that these words are commonly used together in a sentence.

If you are interested in registering your school for the New Zealand Solar Schools programme, click here.

If you would like more information concerning the New Zealand Solar Schools programme, click here.

Sources

SEANZ. (2019). Sustainable Energy for a Sustainable Future. Unknown: SEANZ.

Transpower. (2019). The sun rises on a solar energy future. Unknown: Transpower.


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