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Why you should consider solar panels for your school

Ryan Green, CEO at Romag, takes a closer look at the benefits solar panels can bring to your school

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 21, 2017 | HVAC & lighting

Over the next few years, we're expecting to see a fall of around 6.5% in the amount of spending per pupil in the English school system, according to figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Couple these findings with the rising prices for energy — as high as a 10% increase from some providers in 2017, according to uSwitch — and it's easy to spot two areas that are going to erode the money left in your school's budget in the year to come.

But what can be done? Is there a way to insulate yourself from these higher electricity bills, as well as bringing in some additional funds for your educational establishment? Thankfully, the solution can be found in solar power. By installing a solar PV system on your school, you can unlock an additional revenue stream, along with additional educational and public image benefits.

Let's examine these perks in a little more detail, along with a look at a school that has already successfully been reaping the rewards of solar power for a few years.

Earn money through incentives

In 2010, the government introduced their Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme, an incentive designed to encourage people to generate their own solar power by paying them for the excess electricity they generate. The FIT is still around today and is the one of the main ways that your school's solar panels can earn back some money — you can check the latest rates on the Ofgem site here.

You will need to apply to receive this benefit — systems with a capacity below 50kW can earn under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme for small installation, while systems of over 50kW capacity will need to apply through the ROO-FIT scheme for large installations. Schools are also eligible for additional benefits, such as a Tariff Guarantee and an Energy Efficiency Relaxation, which are detailed in this guide from Ofgem.

Though there will be an upfront cost for the installation of solar panels on your school, they are a lot less expensive than they were even a few years ago. Thanks to these reduced prices, the payback period for solar panels to earn back their price tag is shorter than ever before.

Sell back energy that you don't use

In addition to the FIT, there is also the potential to sell back energy that your school doesn't use to your energy supplier through the export tariff. This excess energy is channelled back into the national grid so that your local community can benefit from cleanly generated electricity. This tariff can be particularly useful out of term time, when your solar panels will still generate power but there will be no-one in the school to use it.

Protect your school from energy price hikes

We've already mentioned that national grid energy prices are set to rise, and by generating a portion of your school's total energy consumption through a solar PV system you can protect yourself from these rising costs. This will help to insulate you from any price hikes, which means they will have less impact on your budget for the school year.

Reduce your school's carbon footprint

Embracing solar power will also allow you to reduce your school's carbon footprint. As your establishment will be using a greater proportion of cleanly generated solar power, you will not use as much energy from the national grid, which is mostly generated by burning fossil fuels.

Not only will you and your staff feel good knowing that you're doing your bit for the environment, but the project is likely to generate a positive feeling in your pupils, their parents, and the local community. Additionally, you can use the project as an educational tool to aid in teaching subjects like maths and science, as well as imparting the values of sustainability and caring for the planet.

Case study: Westborough Primary School

Here at Romag, we were proud to be involved in a solar installation at Westborough Primary School, an academy based in Westcliff-on-Sea in 2012. The project, which we worked on with Sundog and Cottrell and Vermuelen Architects, saw the refurbishment of the school's Edwardian buildings, as well as an addition of a covered walkway.

(Photo: © Anthony Coleman)

As part of the work, Romag supplied bespoke building integrated PV panels for a system with a capacity of over 1.1kwp, which would allow the school to generate clean energy to go towards lowering its carbon footprint. The project was a huge success, with emissions cut by 90% in areas of the building that were renovated. The school has also been able to use the improvements as an educational tool to teach their pupils.

Ryan Green is CEO at Romag, a manufacturer of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems 

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