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01 Jul 2011 10:07:00

Eco-Schools' Free Power for Schools puts solar PV on the roofs of England’s schools

Keep Britain Tidy's Eco-Schools programme, England's leading sustainable schools programme, has seen more than 1,200 English schools in just four weeks sign up to participate in its Free Power for Schools Programme, which is managed by Winch Energy.

Having received almost 5000 registrations from interested schools across the same period Eco-Schools has dramatically expanded the programme and Winch Energy expects that around 80% of applications will lead to panels being installed. The programme has been extended until 15 July to allow time for schools to get their applications in. The 1200 schools that have signed up so far account for over 40 MWp of installed solar power, representing some £100 million of capital cost which will be funded by the private sector.

The Eco-Schools Solar Programme could enable each school to save an estimated 25 tonnes of carbon every year, reduce their energy bill by an average of 13.5% and save themselves up to £5,000 per year. Together, the schools would be able to make a significant contribution to the government’s ambitious carbon reduction targets. If all 15,400 Eco-Schools in England (60% of total English schools) took part in the scheme it could save up to 385,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Coupled with energy good practice, as supported by Eco-Schools, the savings resulting from Eco-Schools Solar Programme could reach an impressive 30% reduction in a school’s carbon footprint.

In return for allowing their rooftop sites to be used, the electricity generated is made available for the schools' use without charge with any surplus power being sold to a utility arranged by the Eco-Schools Solar Programme and the proceeds are retained by the school.

As well as free solar power, Eco-Schools will be rolling out a new solar education support pack in September as an extension to its existing Awards Programmes, providing teaching resources and learning opportunities focused on the use of renewables, environmental resources and the value of developing green technologies.

The Eco-Schools Solar Programme is a one-stop solution to sourcing sustainable power to meet schools' energy requirements and will enable them to make a saving on outgoings at the same time. The scheme means that schools can have solar panels installed, maintained and decommissioned at no cost to either the school or the local authority.

Keep Britain Tidy's Eco-Schools manager Andrew Suter said: 'This is a fantastic result for the scheme so far and we urge the schools who have not already done so to continue to register their interest. The current round of funding will enable the scheme to build out all the schools which have completed applications to date, assuming they are suitable for PV installations. All schools are being kept regularly updated on the progress of the scheme which will move into the installation stage over the summer'.

Winch Energy, a leading solar PV development group, helped design The Eco-Schools Solar Programme arranging funding for the solar project with leading investors and banks in the renewables and sustainable energy sector. The programme has been designed so that participating schools will not have to look to their own resources to enjoy the benefits of solar power.

Winch Energy's executive chairman Nick Wrigley said: 'Our new partnership with Keep Britain Tidy’s Eco-Schools underscores the synergies that exist between the public sector and private enterprise in helping to deliver on the UK's energy and carbon reduction programmes. The programme aims to fund as many solar arrays for as many schools as possible over the next three years and I am of course delighted with the progress of the scheme so far.'

UK schools can register for the first round of the scheme at any time until July 15, 2011.

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