Lewes school running on sunshine

THE roof of Priory School, Lewes, now boasts 143 solar PV panels. The £63,000 project was funded by excess community investment in the Harveys Brewery solar power installation, the first major project of its kind in the UK.

OVESCO, with the help of local company Southern Solar, installed the 37kwp system, which is estimated to generate in excess of 35,000kwh of solar electricity per year.

During term time the school is expected to use most of the energy generated by the system but during school holidays the surplus will be sold back to the National Grid. While the school will save an estimated £3,000 on energy bills, investors in the project will be provided with a return of 4 per cent per annum over the next 25 years.

Changes to the government’s feed-in-tariffs (FiTs) resulted in a number of reductions to the rates offered for solar-generated electricity. Fortunately the cost of solar installations has also dropped, enabling the project to proceed with Priory School benefitting from a tariff of 15.2p/1kWh for the energy it generates.

OVESCO Director Dirk Campbell said: “Young people are acutely aware of the issues facing the environment and it’s important for them to know the older generations are taking action to safeguard their future. We are delighted that the students at the school have shown so much enthusiasm for the project.“

Energy efficiency measures, waste recycling schemes and green workshops have long been part of the school’s operations. But it wasn’t until OVESCO realised its efforts to become more sustainable that it was chosen for the installation.

Tony Smith, Head of Priory School, said: “Our vision for the school was to become more sustainable and community-involved; our pupils really embraced the idea and were keen to do something bigger.

“At the same time the school was under pressure to reduce costs and I struggled to see how we could improve efficiency with little funds. In return for our roof space, the solar installation will reduce our energy costs while supporting a very worthwhile community initiative.”

The main driver for change was the pupil-run Eco Group, a student body committed to awareness raising and reducing the school’s environmental impact. It was this group that drove demand for the solar energy installation.

Pupil Ayo Okojie, 15, is a member of the Eco Group and a big supporter of renewable energy. She said: “We wrote a letter to OVESCO when we first heard about the scheme. We got the idea because some of us have solar panels installed on our homes and we thought it would be great if the school could have them too.”

Mr Smith added: “OVESCO and Southern Solar came along at the right time and made things easy. We got on with running the school knowing we were cutting carbon and would soon have more money to spend on learning and resources.”

As part of the student engagement process, Southern Solar will host a Priory School assembly and Q&A, providing pupils with first hand information on the installation and how it works.

Howard Johns, MD of Southern Solar and Director of the Solar Trade Association, said: “We’re passionate about community-owned energy and working with Priory School presents a great awareness raising opportunity. Education plays an important role in empowering people and communities to generate their own energy and it’s something we’re keen to support.”

OVESCO’s long-term plan is to make Lewes District self-sufficient in renewable energy by 2030.