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Rural Schools Switched On To Renewables

Monday 14 Jan 08

Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has launched Phase Two of the Switched on Schools initiative.

Over £1.3 million will be invested in the installation of solar panles and small wind devices in 35 rural schools. Sixteen rural schools benefited from phase one of the project which was completed in September 2007. Installation on a further 19 schools, as part of phase two, will commence shortly. The initiative also involves the development of an online education resources, designed to educate the next generation of young people on sustainable energy issues.

Speaking at the launch the Minister said: "This is a landmark initiative which places renewable energy at the heart of rural schools. Schools are vital in shaping the thinking and behaviour of the next generation and these young people have their whole lives ahead of them as energy consumers. School children will learn about renewable energy and issues such as climate change in their classrooms and will then see how they can contribute to a more sustainable world.

Educating children to be aware of environmental issues will not only benefit the rural community, but also the world around them. Even little changes made by children can make a big difference to global issues."

The Switched on Schools project is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity (PBSP), Northern Ireland Electricity and the Education and Library Boards.

Laurence MacKenzie, Managing Director of NIE, said: "We are delighted the Switched on Schools project has completed the first phase, installing over 100kWp of renewable generation at schools across Northern Ireland. The next phase will provide 19 more practical demonstration systems for schools, as well as a valuable web-based learning resource for future generations.

In recent years schools have become more enthusiastic adopters of renewable energy, demostrating a range of sustainable energy solutions such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal."

Moat Primary School Principal, Mrs Felicity Humphreys highlighted the link between educational and environmental awareness. "The school is indebted to the support and effort from DARD, NIE and WELB in having the vision to target our young peopleand help schools show their commitment to saving energy and be part of the climate change solution.

It is the responsibility of everyone and education has an important role to play. Through this project we are asking our children to think globally and act locally. The children, school and community are helping to make a difference and contribute positively to our environment and the world at large."

Mrs Rosemary Watterson, Chief Administration Officer of the Western Education and library Board commented: "The Western Board is delighted to be a key partner in this innovative environmental education project with DARD and NIE.

The practical demonstration of renewable energy at work as aprt of the daily school activity, and the ability afforded to the participating schools to collaborate and share informatio, will help to embed acceptance adn understanding of what and how future environmental concerns can be met. The project also meets the key objectives of the Boards' Environmental Policy reducing carbon emissions and raising environmental awareness."