Schools turn to solar power, helping state to achieve emissions reduction targets

From Monday, when students return full-time to Jamison High School, the power used to charge their laptops and light their classrooms will have been sourced from the solar panels on the school’s rooftops.

The western Sydney school is the latest to ramp up its renewable energy systems and use batteries and solar energy to help fuel its operations. Principal Glyn Trethewy said they turned on the system for the first time on Friday.

“It’s been a great journey, to be making our contribution to sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint,” he said. “Schools use power for the essential curriculum, but we also have large roof spaces.”

Jamison High School principal Glyn Trethewy with some of his students as they launched their new renewable energy system on Friday.

Jamison High School principal Glyn Trethewy with some of his students as they launched their new renewable energy system on Friday.Credit:Wolter Peeters

About 1500 of the state’s 2200 public schools use some level of solar energy and a few, such as Wiley Park Girls High in western Sydney, source substantial amounts of energy from their 100 kilowatt solar panels. Others have smaller systems of about 5 kilowatts, which mainly supplement other power sources.

But the potential for schools to both generate energy and sell it back to the electricity grid could help propel NSW towards its goal of halving emissions by 2030, the state government said.

The NSW Department of Education is looking to replicate a similar model to Jamison High’s across its schools and last week released tenders for solar energy systems to be mounted in a $20 million pilot program across 25 schools. Work is due to begin in the summer holidays.

Jamison High School’s new solar panels.

Jamison High School’s new solar panels. Credit:Wolter Peeters

The pilot will assess the costs and benefits of installing solar systems and batteries at school sites, as well as other initiatives that could reduce demand on electricity networks.

Treasurer and Energy Environment Minister Matt Kean said it was part of the NSW government’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050: the new systems would generate electricity to run the schools, store energy and sell it back to the grid.


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