Schools are leading the charge on solar in Sydney’s East

Kincoppal Rose-Bay’s solar power system on the Maureen Tudehope Centre fitness facility

With ample roof space, long tenure, high daytime energy demand and strong educational values, it’s no wonder over 25 schools are keen to install solar power as part of a Council run program in Sydney’s East.
A joint initiative by Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra Councils, Solar my School is helping schools make the switch to solar by providing free independent expert advice and support, from start to finish.
The program is working with a variety of local private and public schools, primary to high schools who are keen to start harvesting their clean green electricity.
“Our program aims to overcome the key barriers facing schools – time, knowledge and trust – to make it easy for schools to navigate a path to solar success”, said Nicola Saltman who manages communications and engagement for the Solar my School program.
The first step in the process is to complete a solar feasibility assessment to determine the recommended system size and optimal configuration of panels.
“We have completed 19 solar feasibility assessments for schools of all different sizes and have found that all but a couple of schools are suitable for solar,” said Anthony Weinberg, the Program’s Coordinator.
“They are proving to be ideal sites since they consume a lot of electricity during the day with IT equipment, sporting facilities and air-conditioning systems, and often have unshaded roofs to capture the sunshine”.
Each site is assessed using half hour usage data from the last 12 months to determine the school’s load profile. Real half hour solar generation data from a nearby site with similar azimuth and tilt as the proposed system is then superimposed on the usage data.
The resulting output is analysed against the school’s retail tariffs and the network tariff to provide the estimated savings from the proposed solar system. “Across all the schools, the average annual savings is around $10,600, which equates to a simple payback of six years. This makes solar a no-brainer from a financial standpoint,” said Weinberg.
“We’re looking at system sizes from 30kW to 100 kW, designed to ensure less than 30% of total yield is exported. This generally cuts 20-30 per cent off their bills, with some schools seeing even larger savings.”
Installing solar also saves schools in capacity charges from effectively managing peak demand. Capacity charges, which are calculated based on a school’s peak energy demand over a 30min interval between 2-8pm and then extrapolated across the year, often coincide with hot February or March day when air conditioning systems are working in overdrive.
“With solar, we’re seeing on average around $1,700 savings in these charges per year for each school or around 18 per cent of the total savings.”
Kincoppal-Rose Bay is the first school in the Eastern Suburbs to take up the challenge to install solar and slash their electricity bills and carbon footprint as part of Solar my School.
Their newly installed 99.7 KW system on the school’s Maureen Tudehope Centre fitness facility is the largest solar power system in the Eastern Suburbs, outside the University of New South Wales.
The system will generate approximately 149,000 kWh of clean green electricity every year which is equivalent to powering 745 school computers or 26 average Australian homes each year.
It will slash 30% off the facility’s yearly energy bills, and help to avoid over 130 tonnes of carbon emissions – equivalent to taking 47 cars off the road annually.
Kincoppal-Rose Bay Principal, Hilary Johnston-Croke, said the exciting initiative will educate students on renewable energy and climate change.
“This year Kincoppal-Rose Bay is celebrating 135 years, but we are very future focused. The newly installed solar power system is a practical and inspiring way to educate all our students from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12 and their families on the importance of a sustainable environment,” Hilary said.
“As hubs of learning and technology, it’s great to support our schools as leaders in the community and inspire others in the community to install solar”, said Saltman.
The Solar my School program arrives just in time for schools to take advantage of the falling cost of solar panels and 14 years of STC’s that equates to up to 45 per cent discount. With electricity prices set to rise, it’s never been a better time to power buildings with renewable energy.
Anthony Weinberg is the Solar My School Coordinator for the Waverley, Woollahra & Randwick Councils
Note: Solar my School is part of a 3-Council Regional Environment Program, established in 2007, for the Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra Councils and their communities to work together to implement tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste across Sydney’s eastern suburbs. 
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