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Saving schools money with a switch to solar power

Increasing budgetary pressures in schools means more stress for Headteachers and School Business Managers trying to balance the books. Taking positive action with energy usage can go a long way to saving schools money by reducing bills, a welcome outcome in the current climate. One Welsh primary school has saved over £3,000 in the first eight months of 2019 by making the switch to solar.

No upfront costs, savings from day one.

Solar panels bring schools the opportunity to generate their own power, reducing reliance on grid energy and reducing the cost of their energy used. The worry for many school heads is not being able to afford to make the switch. Maintained schools can access funding via Department of Education approved finance schemes, which enables them to install solar panels at no upfront cost. The interest-free loan available via the finance scheme is repaid using energy savings, meaning there’s no ongoing cost either.

Solar panels will generate energy during the school day, enabling the school to use most of the energy it creates. The peak generation of energy works hand in hand with school hours as the majority of a school’s energy usage is during daylight hours. For those times when the school needs power outside of daylight hours, battery storage enables the solar energy to be captured and stored until it’s needed.

Battery storage or pass back to the grid?

Any energy generated by the solar panels can be used immediately, stored for use another time, or fed back to the national grid via the school’s energy supplier. The needs of each school are different so how each system is configured will depend on your school’s circumstances. Most schools operate five days each week for around 39 weeks each year. This creates a potential 13 solid weeks of locally generated energy, plus weekends all year round, which may go largely unused. With the option to store this energy, or feed it back to the grid, for which payment can be received, no power generated by the solar panels will be wasted.

Reducing the energy used

Further saving is possible by not using all the electricity generated and therefore selling it back to your energy provider. However, school energy use is significant given the level of lighting, computers and other appliances used regularly – the energy rating of each appliance or device varies wildly so it’s vital to assess the efficiency of each item when replacing equipment. In general, most electricity use in a school is lighting, particularly in the darker winter months. Dependent on your lighting arrangement, you could save up to 60% off your electricity bill by replacing ageing lighting with LED energy-efficient fittings.

The wider environmental picture

Using cleaner energy is not just good for the bottom line of the school, it has huge repercussions for the environment. Any carbon emissions saved as a result of a switch to energy from sustainable sources is a helping hand in saving the planet. Significant savings are required to prevent further global warming and the government has now legislated a move to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which should galvanise earlier action from all institutions and businesses. The sooner the move to renewable energy, the earlier the financial and environmental rewards can be enjoyed.

Significant savings in Cardiff

Tongwynlais Primary School, a 213-pupil school just north of Cardiff, had solar panels fitted in January 2019. Eight months on, their saving has been so significant, it could pay for almost 9,000 exercise books! As well as the financial rewards, the solar panels have been an invaluable visual aid in teaching children about the environment.

Tongwynlais is one of nine schools in Cardiff who have used Ineco Energy to install solar panels. Collectively they’ve saved over £40,000 in the first three quarters of 2019.

To benefit from solar energy in your school, please see our schools page on how Ineco Energy can help you to make the switch to solar.

Infographic on savings made by Tongwynlais school