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Castlewellan Primary School switches on to solar energy

Wednesday 29 Apr 09

St Mary’s Primary School is going green for 2009 by installing a renewable energy system in the school as part of the Switched on Schools programme.

Funded by Northern Ireland Electricity Smart programme, the South Eastern Education and Library Board and DARD’s Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity, St Mary’s Primary School has fitted a 5kWp system of photovoltaic solar panels on its roof to create clean, environmentally friendly electricity from sunlight and help reduce the school’s running costs.

The Switched on Schools programme not only installs renewable technology in rural schools but it also provides learning tools for pupils which allow them to monitor how much energy is being produced on a day to day basis.

Mr Patrick Hardy, Principal of St Mary’s Primary School, says fitting the solar panels was an excellent opportunity to educate the pupils about their ongoing responsibilities to the environment. Having taken part in the Yellow Woods Challenge recycling initiatives, the school are keen to do their bit for the environment "We are constantly looking for new ways to protect 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. The panels will produce around 4,000 units of electricity each year, a significant saving for the school on their energy bills.

Emma Gribben from NIE Energy who visited the school recently said there is great potential for solar power in Northern Ireland and is delighted that local schools are switching to renewable technologies “"This 5kWp system will reduce the carbon dioxide emitted into the local environment by around 2.4 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.”

Vince McKevitt, Head of DARD’s PBSP 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.”

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 NIE, we have installed solar panels at several 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.