Environment News

Commencement of Solar for Schools Programme Announced

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Ossian Smyth, launched the commencement of the first phase of the Solar for Schools Programme.

It will provide eligible schools with 6 kilowatts of roof-mounted solar PV, which equates to approximately 16 solar panels.

The scheme will be funded from the Government’s Climate Action Fund, in line with the Government’s recognition that taking action on climate change is central to Ireland’s social and economic development.

The scheme will assist schools in reducing their energy costs and their carbon footprint as part of the response to meeting the 2030 and 2050 Climate Action Plan targets for the schools sector.

The solar PV panels in schools will also be connected to the electricity grid, so that the schools can generate income by powering other homes and businesses with clean energy when schools are closed at weekends and during school holidays.

The typical amount a school can save will depend on a number of factors. However, by way of example, a school with a 6 kW Solar PV installation could expect to save in the region of €1,200-€1,600 per annum on their bill, when the credit they’ve earned for selling electricity to the grid is taken into account.

Monitoring software will also be provided to each school, to allow review and discussion of the energy generated each day for staff and students.

Minister Foley said, “I am delighted to launch the Solar for Schools scheme. It will allow up to 4,000 schools nationwide to get solar PV panels to reduce their energy bills and their carbon emissions. This ties in with the strong ethos of environmental awareness and climate sustainability among our students and the wonderful work they do in this area, most notably with the Green Flag initiative.”

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth attended the launch and said, “it’s great that schools around the country will now see their electricity bills drop while doing their bit for the climate. Even when the school is closed for the holidays, they will earn money by selling the power they generate back to the grid. When I recently visited a school that had solar panels installed, there was huge interest from the students. Each school will have a display screen to let staff and students know how much power is being generated. I am also delighted that teaching materials will be offered to schools so that students can learn about solar power.”

As well as the obvious financial and climate benefits, it is expected that the visibility of the solar panels on schools will also deliver the added benefit of encouraging discussion and uptake of the technology in the wider community.

The Solar for Schools (Schools’ Photovoltaic (PV)) scheme will be rolled out on a phased basis, commencing with a call for applications to over 1,600 schools from 11 designated areas across the country.

The first phase will open for applications on 30th November 2023. All schools in the first phase will be contacted by the Department and invited to apply from that date. The intention is to include a further eight counties in phase two in Q2 2024 and the remaining eight counties in Q4 2024. It is intended that all eligible schools across the country will have the opportunity to apply to the scheme by end 2024.

The phasing of the programme will ensure a managed and steady flow of work for solar PV contractors. The data gathered during the first phase will also allow for any improvements in the design of the scheme to be implemented in the second and third phases. Counties in the first phase were selected to obtain a good geographical spread including a balance of rural, urban, island, Gaeltacht schools in all regions of the country, as well as targeting counties that have not benefitted from other recent Department of Education climate related initiatives.

Schools in the following areas are invited to participate in the first phase: Co. Clare, Co. Donegal, Dublin City Council area, Co. Galway, Co. Kerry, Co. Kilkenny, Co. Leitrim, Co. Limerick, Co. Offaly, Co. Waterford and Co. Wicklow.

School authorities will be provided with funding from the Department of Education to have the PV panels installed by a registered contractor, with guidance from the Department.

The new scheme is designed to be as streamlined as possible for schools using an online system to facilitate communications with schools. In this regard the Department of Education has set up School Hub, a new online platform which is part of the Department’s geographic information system (GIS).

The online platform will provide a simple, clear and efficient application and approvals process for schools applying for the Solar for Schools Programme.

Schools will be required to get three quotes from suppliers and submit to the Department of Education via the School Hub for review.

The exact budget for the scheme is not being released because it is commercially sensitive. This is because of the need to ensure that contractors deliver competitive quotes rather than basing them on the average funding available per school. The Department of Education will be monitoring the spending under the scheme to ensure that it delivers value for money.

Some schools may not be able to avail of scheme funding immediately due to infrastructure that is not compatible with the new technology solar panels; this may include incompatible roofs or electrical systems.

There are currently 200 Non-domestic solar PV Installers registered with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and 350 domestic solar PV installers. The Solar for Schools Programme is expected to encourage more companies to enter the installer market.

The Department of Education has developed detailed guidance documentation for schools and contractors availing of this programme which are now available at the following link: Schools Photovoltaic Programme

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