Stellar Solar Education

A Welsh school says it will save more than £26,000 a year on energy after becoming the first school in Britain to be powered from an external solar power station.

18th November 2016

St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School in Barry says the scheme will not only save it £650,000 over 25 years but also helps learning by teaching pupils about sustainability, science and technology.

Eventually the 761-pupil school also hopes to sell excess power generated back to the grid. The scheme began when solar energy firm Conergy UK approached the school because it was setting up a solar panel farm in a field it rented beside it. St Richard Gwyn High School pupils with Jane Hutt AM, head teacher Steven Grech and deputy head Steve Lord attended the opening of the solar power farm which powers the school's electricity.

The then acting head and now deputy head, Steve Lord, brokered a deal so the school got 60 solar panels in the field free in return for co-operating with the company as it carried out building work and laid pipes to the site. These panels now provide 70% to 80% of all the school’s power, which will rise to 100%, said Mr Lord.

“It’s a joint venture. I didn’t know what it entailed or the impact or benefits for students when the company approached us two years ago,” Mr Lord admitted. “They wanted to give something back to the school and we believe we are now the first school in Wales, Britain, and possibly Europe, to be powered by an external solar power farm. There are schools with solar panels. but this is different. It will save £26,000 a year for 25 years which we can use to improve the school environment.”

Head teacher Steven Grech (CORR), who came to the school last April, said: “This is a unique scheme. It will save money which can be used by the school and provides clean electricity. It’s a fantastic model that I think other schools should be interested in. It helps education in several areas like science, technology, geography and the fact that we use a solar farm to power our school today and for the next 25 years brings the theory alive. Students have a greater appreciation and understanding of how we can use natural clean resources as an energy source to power our school.”

Jane Hutt AM, presented the school with a commemorative plaque marking the opening of the solar farm. She said: “I am delighted to join you to open this ground breaking solar farm connection. Ground breaking because, I believe that St Richard Gwyn is the only school in Wales - possibly the only school in the UK - with an external connection to a solar farm. It is remarkable to think that this farm will provide enough renewable energy to power the school during daylight hours.”