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Downshire Primary School in Hillsborough is turning over a ‘green’ leaf

Wednesday 11 Feb 09

Downshire Primary School in Hillsborough is turning over a ‘green’ leaf for the new year with eco promises and a renewable energy system.

The school, currently working towards its Green and Blue Ecoflag is part of the Switched on Schools programme which helps schools in rural areas to fit solar panels and renewable technology.  
The Switched on Schools programme is funded by Northern Ireland Electricity, the South Eastern Education and Library Board and DARD’s Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity. It has funded the installation of 5 kWp panels on the roof of Downshire Primary School, which produce electricity from light and sunshine. It is estimated that these panels will prevent about 2.5 tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere.  
Emma Gribben from NIE Energy and Billy Mills from the South Eastern Education and Library Board visited the school last week to see the new solar panels and were introduced to the eco promises which are being undertaken by pupils to help save energy in other ways. These include turning off lights and closing doors and windows.  
Emma said “renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies have the potential to substantially reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (C02) emitted, helping to prevent climate change. In recent years, schools have become enthusiastic adopters of renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.”  
Sarah McKinney, a teacher and eco-champion at Downshire Primary School, says, “there is a digital panel fitted inside the school which allows pupils to monitor how much energy the solar panels are producing. We have a special focus on the environment currently so it’s really helpful to have tangible examples like this to help pupils and the local community understand how to become more eco-friendly.”  
Billy Mills, Energy and Environmental Office for the South Eastern Education and Library Board said the Board is committed to reducing CO2 emissions and has been introducing renewable energy technologies where possible in properties throughout the area. “The Board is doing something positive for the environment by substituting the burning of fossil fuels with solar power to provide electricity and Downshire Primary School benefits through a reduction in annual energy costs."  
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 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.”  
To find out more about the Switched on Schools programme visit www.switchedonschools.co.uk