Henley leads solar project

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014

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Richmond's Henley Primary School has spent $40,000 to save on power bills by installing 60 photovoltaic solar panels.

Principal John Armstrong estimates the solar investment will save the school 12 per cent of its power use and knock around $4800 off its annual average $40,000 power bill.

In addition, grid-wired panels feed unused power back to national suppliers earning the school money, especially over the summer holiday periods.

He said the panels have a life of 25 years and would be paid off in seven years.

But the school's clean energy investment does not stop there.

Mr Armstrong hopes with the installation of more panels the school will one day be energy neutral.

In the meantime staged work is under way to upgrade the school buildings with double glazing, more insulation and light sensors that turn off bulbs when rooms are empty to ensure the best use is made of the self-generated power.

"I've been looking at solar for about a decade and done a lot of research. Every year our power bill goes up. This way we will be saving money we would have to raise so it is freeing up money we would otherwise spend on power.

"We paid cash so the savings will kick in straight away."

Schools were ideal candidates for solar because their power use fell during the day's highest sunshine hours, he said.

"We are taking a whole approach and getting buy-in from the kids - anything built around the school is noticed quickly and there is a lot of interest."

The project is also a learning experience for the children who will be able to monitor power use, watch as it fluctuate when appliances are used or the sun goes behind a cloud.

"There is a lot of science and maths and social studies involved," he said. "Sure we will get some critics - but our next power bill will be less than the one we had last month."

Parents, businesses and sponsors interested in helping fund more panels for the school are welcome to talk with him.

The installation of the school's panels also officially launched the national Solar Schools initiative.

Mr Armstrong supported the initiative. "The real impact of Solar Schools will be the opportunity to teach kids about energy usage and how to take action to reduce it. Second will be the savings made for the taxpayer long term."

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- The Nelson Mail

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