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Ardnabannon switches on the great outdoors!

Monday 8 Sep 08

Ardnabannon Outdoor Education Centre in Castlewellan will be using the natural environment to provide electricity from now on! The Centre is celebrating the completion of its latest energy project, having installed solar photovoltaic panels (PV) on the south facing roof at the back of the building as part of ‘Switched on Schools’. 

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 £450 on the centre’s energy bills.  
 
Gwyneth Scott, NIE Energy, says there is great potential for solar power in Northern Ireland and is delighted Ardnabannon OEC has switched onto solar. While visiting the centre 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 (CO2) 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 Boards to promote renewable energy alternatives in schools and OECs 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 brilliant way to 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 installation is part of Switched on Schools, a new renewable energy initiative for rural schools throughout Northern Ireland. In Phase One 21 schools installed a combination of solar panels and ‘Green Columns’, street lights powered by the sun and wind. Phase two has recently been completed and will see an additional 19 schools switching onto solar this year.  
 
Billy Mills, Energy and Environmental Officer for the South Eastern Education and Library Board says the Board is committed to reducing CO2 emissions and has been introducing renewable energy technologies where possible in properties throughout the area. “With the support of NIE’s Smart programme, we installed solar water heating panels at the Centre in 2005 and this new installation makes Ardnabannon even more energy efficient. Through Switched on Schools, we have installed solar panels and environmentally friendly streetlights at ten schools in the South Eastern area. SEELB will continue to explore renewable energy alternatives to benefit more schools and reduce CO2 emissions in the area.”  
 
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 website www.est.org.uk, or call the Energy Saving Trust on freephone 0800 512 012.