Solar my School

  • 2020

  • Service
    Public Sector Services

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Solar my School (SmS) is a free local government initiative helping schools access the commercial, environmental and educational benefits of renewable energy. This multi award-winning program is designed to overcome key barriers for schools to install solar power by making the process easy and seamless with independent support from start-to-finish.

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  • Renewable energy is a cost-effective solution to address the impacts of the climate crisis. Councils have set ambitious targets to reduce community emissions but there is a lack of real-life successful projects that Councils can implement. Our 3-Councils saw the opportunity for schools to be leaders in renewable energy as they are ideal sites for solar power, with large often-unshaded roof spaces, high daytime energy demand and long tenure. Our challenge was how to address key barriers facing schools – time, trust, knowledge – and leverage Councils’ influence and knowledge to unlock the benefits of solar for schools and their wider community.

  • Co-designed with community experts and school decision-makers and with the end-user in mind (school administrators), SmS is designed to make the whole solar process simple by removing the technical complexity and providing free independent support throughout. This intuitive, step-by-step solution leverages the best of what local government can offer to achieve community carbon reductions . Installed solar not only helps a school reduce annual operating costs, it future-proofs them against rising electricity prices. SmS offers additional value in educating and inspiring thousands of students and parents of the benefits of adopting solar technology and shifting to a low carbon future.

  • Since 2017, 90% of schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs region are participating, with SmS responsible for the five largest solar systems outside University of New South Wales. SmS has since expanded with 10 other Councils across Sydney. In total, 160 schools are on their solar journey as a direct result. Estimated commercial and sustainability impacts: • Total operating electricity cost-savings: > $850,000/year • Avoided carbon emissions reductions: 6,400 tonnes/year • Locally-produced renewable energy: 301GWh/year • Educational opportunities reaching 60,000 students across the Sydney metropolitan area • 75% of schools surveyed reported they would not have gone solar without SmS, suggesting it's driving solar uptake beyond business-as-usual.

  • SmS’s success is partly attributed to the strong delivery partnerships we’ve fostered with school governing bodies (NSW Department of Education, Sydney Catholic Schools), funding bodies (philanthropic Purryburry Trust, Clovelly Community Bank) and educational charities (Solar Buddy). Ongoing engagement with these organisations and seeing the schools as the ‘customer’ from the outset and throughout (school principals, teachers, students, facilities managers) has been instrumental in keeping the program design and delivery relevant and effective. Key tools that we’ve developed including a overarching flowchart and explainer video have helped to communicate complex technical information to a mainstream audience. It’s a low-cost, high-impact scalable and replicable service, leveraging over $3m in solar investments on a small operational budget. It is rare for a Council program to expand to other Council areas, and its testament to the effectiveness of the delivery model that Councils across Sydney have paid a licensing fee – to run the program themselves, or a direct service fee to run the program on a per school basis. We’ve helped cash-strapped schools access $900k in external grants from over 8 different organization to put towards solar projects, meaning they can start saving on bills earlier to reinvest in other equipment and resources. ________________________________________