‘Bright Sparks’ Solar Powered Schools Program
Schools offer one of the most cost-effective carbon abatement opportunities in the built environment. WA’s 870 public schools have large roof space, high energy usage, and many have huge power bills.
“Imagine if we covered every WA classroom with solar and turned them into a network of community energy hubs” – Australian Youth Climate Coalition
Schools offer one of the most cost-effective carbon abatement opportunities in the built environment.[i] WA’s 870 public schools have large roof space, high energy usage, and many have huge power bills.
A large primary school spends between $70,000- $300,000 a year on energy bills, and schools in WA’s hotter regions are known to spend up to $1 million a year on power bills.
Schools also provide the ideal location for the addition of batteries to act as distributed community energy hubs to stabilize the grid and store solar electricity, providing power when the community needs it most – on afternoons when the school has closed, night-time and weekends.
Investment in solar schools’ cuts energy bills and provides jobs, with the investment recovered in a short time. This investment also creates more comfortable learning environments for students, making schools cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Money saved from lower utility bills could go into improving the efficiency of school infrastructure (i.e. buildings and appliances) through better lighting and natural ventilation, greenery and improved air quality. Research has demonstrated that well-designed, sustainable classrooms lead to better student learning outcomes, increase in retention rates and better student and staff morale.
The Bright Sparks Solar powered, Sustainable Schools program across WA’s 870 public schools involves:
- An energy and resource efficiency program that engages the whole school to audit their energy, water and waste consumption to calculate and track the carbon footprint of their school and implement low or zero cost measures and behaviour change (through for example the WA ClimateClever program).
- A state-wide rollout to install rooftop solar and batteries to every public school through a ‘revolving energy fund’.
- Targeting early investment towards schools with the highest energy bills such as those in the north west regions of WA who need to run air conditioning continuously, and where community batteries provide the greatest benefits.
Dr Vanessa Rauland, Climate Clever
“Schools are a perfect candidate for solar. They can feed into the community energy needs as well. Putting solar in schools just makes so much sense, and doing that across the state is a brilliant idea. There are huge opportunities for employment as well.”
Jobs and Benefits
A 100kw solar system will provide enough power for a school with 1000 students and save between $15,000-$30,000 every year on power bills.
With an average saving of $20,000 per school, approximately $17.4 million could be saved every year across the state, or $435 million in savings over the lifetime of the panels.
130,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved every year if all 870 WA public schools had 100kw solar systems.
What would it cost?
The average commercial price for installation of a 100kW solar system in Perth 2020 has fallen to around $100,000; however, bulk-purchasing could reduce this further. The total installation cost across all 870 WA public schools is estimated to be around $78 million.
When savings are taken into consideration, this program could be delivered by the Department of Education at no cost – and would generate millions of dollars in future savings in electricity costs.