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Permanent Secretary launches Renewables for Rural Schools Project

Tuesday 21 Nov 06

Permanent Secretary for Agriculture and Rural Development, Pat Toal, has launched the Renewables for Rural Schools Project.

The investment of £750,000 from DARD through the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity (PBSP), Northern Ireland Electricity and the Education and Library Boards will see the installation of solar panels (PV) and small wind turbines in a number of rural schools across Northern Ireland.  The electricity generated will contribute to reducing the running costs of the participant schools and, more importantly, pupils will be able to monitor the contribution their school is making towards the generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and light. 

This will be achieved through the creation of a web based ‘Virtual Power Station’ that will gather data on the electricity generated at each school.  This information will be used in the schools’ educational activities, encouraging pupils to take an active interest in the power generated and used at their schools. 

Speaking during the launch of the project at Craigavon Primary School in Gilford, Co Down, Pat Toal said “A key aim of the proposed new energy strategy for Northern Ireland, is to increase the proportion of electricity consumption obtained from renewables to 12%.  This project will see rural schools directly contributing to that overall target. The creation of a web based virtual power station will also give the participating school children direct involvement in the project and provide opportunities for learning about important issues such as the need to generate electricity from more sustainable sources. Through positive practical experience by our young people, the uptake of such technologies in the future will be much more achievable”.

Laurence MacKenzie, Managing Director, NIE Electricity Infrastructure, highlighted the important role of renewable energy technologies in reducing Northern Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels and other non-sustainable energy sources.  Generating electricity from the sun and wind appeals to a broad range of people, both to save money and to protect the environment.  NIE, through the SMART programme, is committed to advancing the renewable energy market in Northern Ireland and has already helped to support many schools to install renewable energy technologies.  We are therefore delighted to be involved in this project which will provide practical demonstration systems for rural schools throughout Northern Ireland and a valuable web-based learning resource for future generations.  It is hoped that by supporting this project, other schools, community groups, businesses and homeowners will invest in sustainable energy solutions.”

Tony Murphy, Head of Property Services of the Southern Education and Library Board, explained that the type and nature of the systems to be installed in each school had been specifically selected so that children could have visual and practical experience of making a positive contribution to generating electricity from renewable sources. 

He said, Safeguarding the future of school children is paramount, and substituting solar and wind power for fossil fuel use makes very good sense. We are constantly looking for new ways to protect the local environment and the installation of PV and small wind devices at the schools throughout Northern Ireland will be a constant reminder to the pupils, teachers and parents that we can all play a part in protecting our future."
Commenting further on DARD’s commitment to the rural sector across Northern Ireland the Minister went on to say: “The Rural Strategy which I launched in October is proposing that our overall objective for the next seven years should be ‘to diversify the rural economy and sustain rural communities’. Integrating the economic, social and environmental aspects of rural development, across both farming and non-farming interests, offers the best hope of creating the rural society to which we all aspire.”


The EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity (PBSP) is an integral part of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's broad range of support for rural areas within its Rural Development Programme 2001-06.

NIE was awarded £563,000 from the Department towards this Schools Renewable Energy Project £750,000 project under Measure 4.9 of the PBSP - Development and Improvement of Infrastructure. Matching funds are being provided by NIE (£82,000) and the Education and Library Boards £105,000.

The Rural Strategy for 2007-2013 can be viewed at the DARD website: www.dardni.gov.uk

All media enquiries to DARD Press Office, Tel: 028 9052 4619.