Switched on Schools
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A Dromore College gets SMART idea from solar energy

Thursday 25 Jun 09

As part of the Switched on Schools programme, the Dromore school has fitted a 5kWp system of photovoltaic (PV) 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 is funded by Northern Ireland Electricity’s SMART programme, the Western Education and Library Board and DARD’s Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity (PBSP). The scheme 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.  
Miss Christine Doherty, Principal of St John’s Business and Enterprise College, says fitting the solar panels was an opportunity not only to save on energy costs but also to educate the pupils about their ongoing responsibilities to 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. It makes good business sense to reduce our energy bills where possible and the panels provide our pupils with an opportunity to learn more about renewable energy.” The panels will produce around 4,000 units of electricity each year, and will reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by 2.4 tonnes.  
Gwyneth Compston from NIE Energy who visited the school last week said there is great potential for solar power in Northern Ireland and is delighted that local schools are leading the way in switching to renewable technologies. "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 throughout Northern Ireland."  
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.”  
Olivia Kerrigan, from the Western Education and Library Board says the Board is committed to reducing C02 emissions and has been introducing renewable energy technologies where possible in schools and colleges throughout the area. "With valuable support this year from the Switched on School’s funding bodies, we have installed solar panels at several schools in the Western area. The Board is doing something positive for the environment by substituting the burning of fossil fuels with solar power to provide electricity."  
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.