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Schools Switch on Innovation Award

Tuesday 29 Jul 08

Switched on Schools, a pioneering renewable energy project funded by Northern Ireland Electricity, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Devlopment (DARD) and the Education and Library Boards, has won the NEMEX Renewables Innovation Award.

The project, which is managed by NIE Energy, has installed solar panels at 43 rural schools across Northern Ireland. These working examples of renewable energy are complemented by an online eductaional resource, designed to educate the next generation on sustainable energy issues.

Gwyneth Scott, NIE Energy is delighted Switched on Schools has been recognised. "This project not only encourages schools and the education and library boards to add renewable energy to tehir energy mix, it also educates pupils now and in the future about the impact they have on the natural environment and how they can make a difference. Through the interactive website pupils can see how much clean energy their school is generating compared to other schools. This project is the first of its kind in the UK and we hope other education boards will adopt similar schemes to reduce reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity."

The Environment and Energy Awards judges prasied the project's original approach to renewable energy and education: "The installation of photovoltaic panels in schools is not a new concept. What is new is that an energy company took the initiative, and had the vision to use a large number of installations to create a virtual user network, "a virtual power station" is the concept this scheme uses. The linking of 43 schools via a website provides an excellent teaching, demonstration and dissemination resource, which benefits the school children, teachers and the wider community.

"The project also developed local capacity building to strengthen the fledgling renewable energy installation industry, which should bring longer term benefits to the local economy. It is the context of this project that makes it particularly exciting, pulling together diverse and spread out rural communities to engage in a common cause of improving the environment."

For more information on Switched on Schools visit www.switchedonschools.co.uk. For more information on renewable energy projects funded through the NIE Smart programme visit www.nie-yourenergy.co.uk.