The Queensland government is tapping rooftop solar in a bid to slash the power costs of one of its largest energy users – its state schools – by up to 20 per cent.
The Queensland Premier announced the plan last month to roll out solar and energy efficiency measures across around 800 state schools.
The first phase of the $40 million solar program, to be rolled out this year, will install PV on up to 30 schools in each of the Department of Education’s seven regions – in an effort to “share the benefits” throughout the state.
Another $57 million will be invested into making schools more energy efficient.
The Premier said the scheme was anticipated to cut the state schools’ annual energy bill of more than $50 million by an estimated $10.2 million a year.
Solar Citizens Queensland Campaigner Louise Matthiesson welcomed the initiative, and encouraged the government to go further.
“Putting solar systems on schools just makes sense - it’s good for our kids future, and since schools use most of their energy during the day, solar can meet a big percentage of their electricity needs”.
“The state government has a long way to go to meet their promise of at least 50% renewables by 2030, so why not expand the solar schools program even further?”
“We’d like to see all Queensland schools shift to 100% clean energy by installing solar and battery storage, as well as purchasing green power from the grid when necessary” she added.
One of the first schools to take part in the scheme, the Bremer State High School in Ipswich, already has a small rooftop system in place, and will have an audit carried out to determine the best ways to cut its energy costs.
“Currently Bremer spends about $250,000 a year on electricity, with $100,000 of that in network charges so that gives an indication of the impact this initiative will have over time,” said Queensland education minister Grace Grace in comments on Tuesday.
“We know that many of our schools have great environmental programs and do what they can to save energy and water and this program will make a massive contribution,” Grace said.
But the government-backed program is not before time. For several years now, schools and universities around Australia have been embracing solar as a perfect fit for their energy profiles, and as a way to minimise exposure to rising grid power prices.
Nearly two years ago, a program that installed solar at 31 Catholic schools in the Townsville Diocese – resulting in annual electricity savings of $250,000 – caught the attention of the Vatican.
And in one of Queensland’s top solar postcodes – also two years ago – Bundaberg Christian College installed what was, at the time, the largest hybrid solar and storage array of any Australian school, with the addition of a 194kW PV system and 250kWh of battery storage.
Since then, there have been more solar installations at schools than we can keep track of.
A recent initiative worth noting, however, is an ARENA-backed pilot of cutting edge portable solar classrooms known as “Hivves”, which generate enough energy not only to meet their own demand, but that of a further two classrooms.
The portables, made by NSW-based company Hivve Technology, are being trialled at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Holsworthy in Sydney’s south western suburbs and at Dapto High School in Dapto.