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Solar panels on the roof of Castelbar primary school in Ealing

Sun shines on school project

Thanks to a new community energy project, supported by Ealing Council, a local school will be partially powered by the sun – and save money on its energy bills.

Local sustainability group Ealing Transition offered the community a chance to invest in clean energy for pupils by paying for solar panels through ‘crowd-funding’ via the Schools Energy Co-Operative. The council found schools that were suitable and willing to take part, and got the relevant paperwork done. The first school to benefit was Castlebar primary in Hathaway Gardens, Ealing. Its new solar panels were installed last week and tested this week, ready for the new school term.

The panels will convert energy from the sun into electricity to power the building and students will learn about the whole process, from sun to school, and its benefits.

Councillor Binda Rai and school business manager Sharon Fida on the roof with the panels
Councillor Binda Rai and school business manager Sharon Fida on the roof with the panels
‘I hope it will be the first of many’

Councillor Binda Rai, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I’m delighted that Castlebar has taken part in this initiative and I am certain other schools will follow. As well as being a greener way to generate energy, it will save the school money by cutting its bills. The panels also provide children with an excellent, hands-on opportunity for learning – with real statistics and information being monitored right inside their school.

“I understand this kind of system can pay back the investment in seven-10 years, which is great when the panels should be there for at least 20-25 years. And I would like to thank Ealing Transition, the Schools Energy Co-op and the members of the community who backed this scheme for making it possible. I hope it will be the first of many.”

‘Castlebar will save nearly £40,000’

Jo Mortensen, the council’s sustainability manager, said: “The partnership between the council and Ealing Transition to deliver our first community energy project resulted in a big win for the school and the borough. Transition’s grass roots enthusiasm encouraged the council to find suitable schools and get all the paperwork in place to complete the project. Castlebar will save nearly £40,000 over the life of the project and should be protected from increases in electricity prices for 20 years. The students will also benefit from learning about green energy, which will undoubtedly be a big part of their future.”

Sharon Fida, business manager at the school, said: “We are very pleased and excited to have been given this opportunity to receive solar panels. At Castlebar we take our responsibilities towards ensuring a sustainable and greener future very seriously – and we are confident that the newly installed solar panels will complement our existing efforts towards providing greener energy, reducing energy costs whilst also reducing our carbon footprint.”

‘Schemes like these can only become more attractive’

Grant Venner of Ealing Transition said: “Ealing Transition initiated this project because we believe that the future of energy is clean, decentralised and generated where it is consumed. Generating our own power makes us more resilient, and also reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, which cause climate change. Also, London has a real problem with air quality, so clean energy is a great way to reduce this.

“We were in the process of creating our own energy company when the government made cuts to the renewable energy sector. Our joint venture with Ealing Council and the Schools Energy Co-op has given us the backing of a big, secure and well-established player. Our role changed to getting the residents of Ealing to invest directly in a clean energy future – and to make good returns in the process. The school wins – by reducing its electricity bills – and so do the investors.

“Castlebar School is hopefully the first of many. With changes to interest rates and the rapid reduction in the cost of renewables, we think local schemes like these can only become more attractive.”

The panels were installed by Joju Solar, which was appointed by the Schools Energy Co-Operative.

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