What do Meekathara District High School, Millars Well Primary School and Munglinup Primary School have in common? Plenty when it comes to a zest for learning, and now they’re among 30 regional Western Australian high schools set to study under solar PV following Horizon Power’s announcement of a partnership with the state Department of Education to deliver $5 million worth of rooftop solar to public schools across regional WA.
Western Australia’s Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery launched the Solar Schools Program from Port Hedland Primary School on Friday, saying “The Solar Schools program is creating new, practical ways for students and teachers to acquire new skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) areas such as solar technology.”
The 2.1 MW solar rollout is part of the McGowan Government’s $200 million School Maintenance Blitz, announced in September, 2019.
Western Australia’s Energy Minister Bill Johnston said in a statement, “Energy is a significant expense for our schools and this program will allow them to each save 27% on electricity costs.” He calculates, “collectively, that’s $1.7 million worth of savings each year”.
Horizon Power translates these wins into a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 2,000 tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of taking 400 internal-combustion-engine cars off the road.
The installation work is also set to create 12 new jobs across regional areas of the state, and the project will support two new Aboriginal electrical apprenticeships.
Last year, Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin talked to pv magazine about the importance of taking people and communities on the journey to enabling their future prosperity, and bringing up talent in the regions.
Unwin said she wants people in Horizon Power-ed communities to feel, “I can see myself in there, and someone’s backing me, and they’re going to give me a really red-hot go at changing my skill set into the thing that’s needed in the future.”
WA to be “green” as far as the eye can see
Johnston said the Solar Schools Program is another chapter in the state’s “commitment to a cleaner, greener, renewable-energy future for Western Australia”.
It is clearly aligned with WA’s Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap, and resonates also with the McGowan Government’s announcement in July of its plan to help power the state’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, by investing $66.3 million in solar installations and batteries.
Among these projects is the $4 million plan to turn 10 Western Australian schools into smart Virtual Power Plants.
In early August, Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School was announced as the first participant in the innovative VPP pilot project.
The town this year also saw the installation of a PowerBank community battery by WA energy provider Synergy under the auspices of the DER Roadmap, to help control the flow of energy generated by the state’s vast residential solar fleet.
The logic of the DER Roadmap, Johnston said at the time, is that in de-constraining the grid more customers can install solar. “Solar is a big opportunity for WA, but beyond just rooftop solar. Standalone power systems, batteries on the grid – there is a role for everything.”
Parties to the launch of the Solar Schools Program into regional WA each spoke of their pride in the project. Like a good pair of school shoes, starting out under solar power has become something that everyone can appreciate.
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