A push to power schools with solar and battery storage is underway on two opposite sides of Australia this week, with the launch of the Synergy Schools VPP pilot program in Perth and, in NSW, a call for tenders to install solar and batteries across 25 regional and metro schools.
In WA on Tuesday, a lithium-ion battery storage system was unveiled at Rossmoyne Senrior High School – one of the first 10 Perth metro schools chosen for the project that aims to test how a VPP might help schools to better manage their energy use.
The pilot, led by state-owned gen-tailer Synergy as part of the state McGowan government’s Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap, will ultimately take in a total of 16 schools, with an additional six in Geraldton and Kalgoorlie taking the total investment in the project to $8.8 million.
Synergy has installed the VPP technology and infrastructure, including a commercial battery and potentially solar panels, which will be managed to meet the needs of the schools as well as to make the local electricity grid more stable and reliable.
The unveiling of the Rossmoyne battery served as the official launch of the Synergy Schools VPP, which will also serve as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics subject for students, to develop an understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the shift to renewables.
“There is an energy transformation occurring in Western Australia and my government is investing in the emerging minds of our green energy future through the Schools VPP pilot project,” said WA premier Mark McGowan.
“The Schools VPP pilot is a step towards storing and distributing renewable energy at a local level. … [It] provides the chance for our state to shape future energy sustainability for schools, the community and the main electricity grid.”
In NSW, the state government is embarking on its own solar and battery-based schools pilot, with a announcement on Monday that the PV systems for the first 25 schools had been put out to tender.
The $20 million Schools Renewable Energy Infrastructure Pilot Project will assess the benefits and costs of installing solar and batteries at public schools alongside other initiatives that could reduce demand on the electricity network.
“There is more than 8 million square metres of NSW public school roof space and this pilot will allow us to understand how we can use it to support the next generation of renewable energy on a larger scale,” said NSW energy minister Matt Kean.
“This $20 million investment will allow us to assess the benefits of the large-scale implementation of solar PV systems and batteries to generate electricity to run our schools but also to store and sell energy back into the grid.”
Minister for education Sarah Mitchell said the tender was open to qualified applicants who could design, supply and install the solar and battery systems with work expected to start during the summer school holiday period.