To celebrate its 50th birthday last October, the Green Flag Award winning St Saviour’s school in Bath launched a project to put 40 solar panels on its roof, joining dozens of solar schools across the country on the National Solar Schools Scheme.
The 10kW array will provide 25% of the school’s electricity needs, saving 4.9 tonnes of carbon with cleaner, greener energy over the next 25 years, while also earning money during weekends and school holidays. Including earnings from Feed in Tariff subsidies, and savings on energy bills, the financial gain for the school is estimated at £2,500 per year for 25 years, which will be used to buy equipment the school desperately needs, such as toys and stationery. After reaching their £20,000 target in July, the most ever raised by a solar school, the project has been given the go ahead with the panels being installed in time for the start of term in September 2016.
A grant of £10,000 was made by the Bath and West Low Carbon Community Fund CIO (BWCE Fund) representing about half of the money required to install the panels. The BWCE Fund was set up by Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE), as a separate charity, to deliver funding to a range of low carbon and fuel poverty initiatives. BWCE are a community benefit society that own and develop renewable energy projects. Surplus profit is distributed via the BWCE Fund with preference given to applications close to sites where BWCE have generating projects operating. St Saviours received the largest grant that the Community Fund gave out in 2015, as the trustees of the BWCE Fund considered it an outstanding project with a high but attainable target to reach. In addition the trustees recognised the significant benefits environmentally and to the school itself.
The action group Solar at St Saviour’s Infants (SASSI), made up of volunteer parents and teachers, has worked tirelessly to match this grant with a further £10,000. They achieved this by fundraising through a fun run, selling tea towels with the children’s self portraits, sponsored scooter and bike rides, a craft fair and other activities or events. They received a grant from Curo for £500 and held a major auction event which raised over £4000 in one evening! They have made a short movie featuring many of the children at the school, who talk about why the solar project is important to them, and what difference it will make to the school.
The solar project has had a very positive effect on the children’s awareness of the importance of preventing climate change, motivating them to become passionate about saving the planet. The students’ own Green Team has focussed on energy saving and recycling around the school. There have also been education programs from Bath University scientists related to solar energy.
The school will be organising a Switch On event on Friday 30 September at a celebration assembly. It will feature movie footage of the project, a final screening of the SASSI film, displays showing how much carbon and energy the panels will save, and a mad scientist who will turn on the solar array – for which all the St Saviour’s students will be sporting sunglasses. All parents, donors and major supporters are invited, along with local MP Ben Howlett and the chair of Bath & North East Somerset council.
St Saviour’s is a very diverse school which brings children together from all backgrounds and plays a big part in the local community. It is an inspiration for other schools around the country.
“Lots of people making small changes on a local level can add up to a big difference nationally. I hope other schools follow our example!” Fiona Williams, Associate Parent Governor.