Renewable Energy in Schools

Biomass Boilers - Locally Grown Low Carbon Energy

Biomass boilers that use locally grown wood chips for generating space heating and hot water, offer significant potential for carbon reductions, especially when they are used to replace oil-fired boilers, or even electric heating. Suffolk County Council has installed in the region of 4MW of biomass boiler capacity over the last 4 years encompassing  approximately 20 school sites. This overall capacity will deliver approximately 4440 MWh of renewable heat each year (enough to heat over 200 typical family homes) and will result in an annual reduction in carbon emissions in the region of 1,600 tonnes.

Biomass installations to-date have been funded through  various bio-energy grant schemes however, moving forward future installations will be designed to be  eligible for annual renewable-heat payments under the Government’s renewable-heat-incentive (RHI) scheme.

Schemes installed to date include: Rendlesham Primary School and Nayland Primary School.

Future installations being planned include Stowupland HS, Ipswich Academy, Felixstowe Academy and Benjamin Britten school in Lowestoft. Once installed these schemes will result in an additional installed capacity of approximately 1.2MW and will result in a further annual carbon reduction of approximately 500 tonnes CO2.

In recognition of its efforts Suffolk County Council has won the International Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy for their work in installing biomass in Suffolk schools and helping to set up a successful supply chain. Due to the scale of the project it has been able to support the growth of such a supply chain, making wood fuel a feasible option for other organisations and individuals in the county who may wish to use it. The Council has been pro-active in sharing the knowledge gained from the biomass installations and has shared this through organised events and informal talks.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels – more than just renewable electricity

Over the last year SCC's Corporate Property has deployed almost 1MW of photo-voltaic (PV) solar panel capacity across schools and corporate buildings in Suffolk. PV panels generate renewable electricity and qualify for renewable electricity payments under the Government’s feed-intariff (FiT) scheme.

To-date PV panels have been installed on almost 50 schools with each therefore benefiting from an amount of ‘free’ electricity. The total amount of renewable electricity generated each year is approximately 850,000kWh (enough to power 140 typical family homes). The value of this electricity at current prices is in excess of £70,000 and the corresponding annual reduction in carbon emissions amounts to more than 350 tonnes CO2. SCC's Corporate Property receives the FiT payments for each installation to re-pay the capital costs of the scheme and also fund in-life maintenance costs.

The benefit of PV panels to schools is more than just the value of the 'free electricity'; each installation includes a large screen which displays energy and carbon data from the PV panels in real-time and this can also be displayed in numeric and graphical form on PCs using an online solar energy portal. This capability is considered to be an extremely valuable curriculum tool and encourages greater interest in green energy and emissions reduction. (Images are of Kelsale Primary School (top); and Blundeston Primary School (bottom).