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St Mary's Primary School Switches onto Solar!

Thursday 22 May 08

St Mary's Primary School in Kircubbin will be switching on the sun this spring! Pupils and teachers at the school are celebrating the completion of the latest energy project, having installed solar photovoltaic panels (PV) on the south facing roof at the side of the school.

The 5kWp system, which was funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity (PBSP), Northern Ireland Electricity's Smart Programme and the South Eastern Education and Library Board, will produce around 4000 units of electricity each year, a saving of up to £440 on the school's energy bills.

Gwyneth Scott, NIE Energy, says there is great potential for solar power in Northern Ireland and is delighted St Mary's Primary School has switched onto solar. While visiting the school this week to see the new solar technology, Gwyneth said, "Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies have the potential to substantially reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide (C02) emitted, helping to prevent climate change.

"This 5kWp system will substantially reduce the carbon dioxide emitted into the local environment by around 2.5 tonnes. In recent years schools have become enthusiastic adopters of renewable energy, demonstrating a range of sustainable energy solutions such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. We look forward to continuing our work with the Education and Library Boards to promote renewable energy alternatives in schools throughout Northern Ireland."

Vince McKevitt, head of DARD's BSP Programme said, "This is a truly innovative project which places renewable energy at the heart of rural schools. It is important for children to be aware of the need to save electricity and the damaging effect energy consumption has on the environment. Having renewable energy in schools is a brillant way of show young people what can be done to help the environment. School children will see the actual workings of renewable energy whilst learning about the bigger issues such as climate change. Everyone has a role to play in saving energy and even little changes made  by children can make a big difference to global issues. Educating children to be aware of environmental issues will not only benefit the rural community, but also the world around them."

The school has also installed three environmentally friendly street lights, 'Green Columns'. The Green Columns use wind and solar power to energise the street light. There is no waste as the light is automatically switched on and off by in-built sensors and energy generated is maximised by the use of a low energy, compact fluorescent tube.

Prinicpal Mr Dorrien says this is an ideal opportunity not only to save on energy costs but also to educte the pupils about their ongoing responsibilities to the environment. "At St Mary's Primary School safeguarding the future of our pupils is paramount, and replacing energy generated by fossil fuels with solar power makes very good sense. We are always looking for new ways to care for the local environment and the installation of PV at the school is a constant reminder to the pupils, teachers and parents that we can all play a part in protecting our future."

Billy Mills, Energy and Environmental Officer for the South Eastern Education and Library Board says the Board is committed to  reducing C02 emissions and has been introducing renewable energy technologies where possible in properties throughout the area. " With the valuable support this year from DARD and NIE, we have installed solar panels and environmentally friendly streetlights at five schools in the South Eastern area. The Board is doing something positive for the environment by substituting the burning of fossil fuels with solar power to provide electricity. The schools benefit environmentally through a reduction in C02 emissions and they will also see savings on annual energy costs."

To find out more about saving energy and renewable energy solutions for your home, school or business check out the NIE Energy website www.nie-yourenergy.co.uk , the EST webiste www.est.org.uk , or call the Energy Saving Trust on freephone 0800 512 012.