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Thinking about school solar panels? Move fast!

Free solar panels for schools – time is running out

There are organisations who can install solar (PV) panels on your school roof with no installation costs to the school; you just buy the electricity that they generate. However, these schemes are likely to come to an end soon. If you are interested in securing a solar installation for your school, this may be your last opportunity.  

Why consider school PV

Energy is a major proportion of non-staff costs in schools and a significant part of schools’ environmental impact, including carbon emissions[i]. Electricity consumption, and the unit cost of electricity, are forecast to increase over the coming 20 years[ii].

The benefits of solar panels on schools include:

·      Reduced energy bills
·      Reduced carbon footprint
·      Learning opportunities for pupils and the wider community
·      Demonstrates a commitment to sustainability

Funding a PV installation

Purchasing, installing and maintaining solar panels is costly. Since 2010, the Government’s Feed in Tariff has helped people to invest in PV technology by paying the owners of solar panels for generating their own clean electricity. The Feed in Tariff has made it viable for some companies to install solar panels on schools for free, and sell the school the electricity generated at a reduced rate. A number of Dorset schools have benefited from this type of scheme.

However, the Feed in Tariff is due to end in March 2019. After this time, we anticipate that the schemes offering free solar panels to schools will come to an end. There remains a window of opportunity for schools to access funding schemes for solar panels before the Feed in Tariff disappears.

Considerations involved in a solar installation

The process of researching and securing a solar installation for your school can be complex and would certainly involve the following steps:

·      A site survey, or multiple surveys to assess the suitability of your roof
·      Signing legal agreements regarding rental of the school roof* and energy purchase
·      Providing access to your school roof and electricity distribution box during the installation phase (most installers are flexible and can arrange to install during school holidays).

* Dorset County Council have a robust roof rental agreement which has proved acceptable to school Governors and the solar installation owners. 

What’s out there

The organisations still offering solar schemes for schools are mostly not-for-profit Community Benefit Societies. These organisations take on all planning, installation and maintenance with no cost to the school and take all the risks associated with the panels. They sell the generated electricity to the school at a lower price than purchasing electricity from the grid.

We are aware of the following schemes available to schools*. This is by no means an exhaustive list; other suppliers and opportunities may be available.

Dorset Community Energy[iii] (Community Benefit Society) 
Applications open late 2018, installations (limited number) in 2019.

Schools Energy Coop (Community Benefit Society)
Open to applications, immediate start for a limited number of schools.

Solar For Schools (Community Benefit Society) 
Open to applications until end of June, immediate start.

*Dorset County Council has no contractual relationships with these suppliers nor by listing them does this provide a recommendation; purely schemes that we are aware of.

How to proceed
If you are interested in having a solar installation, we would urge you to make an enquiry with your organisation(s) of choice as soon as possible. Naturally it is for your school to decide whether a solar installation is right for you, and as school leadership and Governors, you must satisfy yourselves of the terms offered by your chosen company before proceeding.   

Seeking advice
If you have been in contact with a solar scheme provider and would like to discuss the details of any scheme you have been offered, the Low Carbon Dorset Renewable Energy Technical Officer is available to help. 
Derek Moss iii Renewable Energy Technical Officer Low Carbon Dorset or 01305 224772

The Sustainable Schools Officer at Dorset County Council may also be able assist by providing data about your school’s energy consumption to help you estimate any potential savings. She can also be a point of contact for any questions regarding the legal implications of an agreement, the structural impact on your roof, and the options you have.
Alison Jay  Sustainable Schools Officer Dorset County Council or 01305 224789.

Community Energy Team  | Environment & Economy Directorate 
Dorset County Council  County Hall Colliton Park  DT1 1XJ

[i] Department for Education (2012) Top Tips to Reduce Energy and Water Use in Schools.

[ii] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2018) Updated energy and emissions projections: 2017

[iii] Derek Moss (Low Carbon Dorset Renewable Energy Technical Officer) is also a voluntary Director of Dorset Community Energy

29 May 2018

Alison Jay
Sustainable Schools / Eco-schools
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