November 22nd, 2019
A nationwide student competition to have solar panels designed and installed on the roofs of schools was launched yesterday.
Winners of the Solar Schools contest, run by Friends of the Earth Ireland (FOE), will receive a 90 per cent grant toward the installation of solar panels on their roofs.
All Primary and Secondary School students are qualified to compete. The contest’s closing date is February 14, and winners will be picked through a combination of an independent panel of judges and an online public vote system.
The contest was launched with the support of Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchel O’Connor TD and the chair of Eirgrid Brendan Tuohy.
Between eight and 16 schools will win solar panels in 2020 depending on the level of support obtained through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) Communities Grant programme.
Next year will be the first time that schools are eligible to apply for SEAI grants for solar panels, and FOE hopes that the competition will pave the way for small-scale community eco-initiatives across the country.
Kate Ruddock, FOE’s deputy director, said that she feels disheartened thinking that eco-conscious, Irish students are educated in “old buildings powered by fossil fuels”.
“There are so many benefits to running on solar power generated right from the roof of a school,” she said, such as helping schools to save money spent on electricity.
“Cash strapped schools are often fundraising just to pay energy bills, so every euro saved is an extra euro for school services,” Ms Ruddock added.
Eirgrid’s Brendan Tuohy said that he was “delighted” to back a project that would be significantly beneficial to Irish students and help young people to “lead the change to renewable energy from within their communities”.
“Eirgrid has ambitious plans to integrate very high levels of renewable electricity on to the energy system over the next decade,” he said.
“It will be a huge effort and it is going to take everyone working together across Government, business, industry and communities,” he added.
The competition’s pilot scheme ran across five communities in countries Tipperary, Limerick, Mayo, and Dublin last year.
Coláiste Naomh Eoin in Co Galway was among the winners last year with an idea for a “solar-powered bench” with USB ports.
Financial support for the promotion, design, and installation of projects will come from the Tomar Trust, Eirgrid, Patagonia, The Irish Wind Energy Association, Conradh na Gaeilge, Elgin Energy, ABO Wind, Tipperary Energy Agency and Community Power.