How Bradford Council made my solar dream come true
Bradford Council is leading the way on helping schools to install solar panels. Here’s how I helped to get it all started.
On Friday last week, the last day of term, I was sat in my kids’ school assembly cheering at the news that the school’s solar panels have, in less than a year, saved the school over £2,000 on their electricity bill.
It was fantastic to see the joy on the Head’s face as she shared this news with the whole school. I also know, as a governor at the school, that the installation of the solar panels has inspired the school to do further environmental measures. Over the summer holidays LED lighting will be installed – again providing the school with long term savings as well as reducing our impact on the environment.
When my kids were breaking up for the summer holidays this time last year, we knew that when they returned in September Saltaire Primary would be transformed into a mini-power station – with one whole roof taken up by 66 solar panels. It had taken us less than 3 months to go from confirmation we were due to get a new roof at the school to the installation of the panels being agreed.
And it had all begun with a fortuitous chat over a cup of coffee with another parent at the school. The other parent happened to be a local Green party councillor and we realised that we both harboured the same dream to get solar panels on Saltaire School. When I explained to him that we were due a new roof and that now was the time to move ahead with this, we decided to try to make it happen.
There followed a flurry of meetings with the school business manager, the Head and the local community energy group to see how they could be involved. We explored various options such as crowd-source funding and buying the panels outright, but in order to get the panels on in time for the new roof the only option was to ask Bradford Council for a loan.
Luckily we soon realised that the school and Bradford Council had the same vision as us – they too wanted to see more energy saving and renewable energy production in the district. The council was already busy preparing to install energy efficiency measures, a biomass boiler and solar panels at the local swimming pool. Now this was the perfect opportunity to help a school cut its carbon footprint and save money too.
So it agreed to pay for the installation of the panels. The school would pay back the cost over 7-8 years. After that time the panels would belong to the school and the school would reap the entire benefit. Friends of the Earth estimates that the school will earn about £3,835 per year, through a combination of electricity savings, Feed-in Tariff payment (payments set by the Government for every kWh produced), and the Export Tariff (for any electricity sold to the grid). Over the next 25 years they should earn at least £80,000 - nearly 3 times the cost of the panels.
The school and the children have since celebrated the solar panels with a switch-on assembly and by making a huge sun display out of the children’s handprints. They have also come first in the Science and Technology Awards for schools in the Bradford district.
The kids are really proud of the panels – especially as they are the first school in Bradford to have any installed. My little girl now shouts out every time she spots panels on roofs: “They are just like our school, Mummy.”
And there was further good news last week when, thanks to Friends of the Earth’s new Run on Sun campaign, Bradford Council passed a motion to support up to 40 other schools in the area wanting to install solar panels. We hope many other councils across the country will follow suit.
More than 10,000 people are now supporting our campaign to help make it easy for schools to run on sun, and more than 400 schools have ordered our free 'How To' guide. The more people we have on board the louder our voice and the bigger the influence we have.
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