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Largest solar PV installation to be fitted in a primary school

A ‘community-benefit’ collaboration between 23 local schools, award-winning social enterprise Low Carbon Hub, and installation partner Joju Solar has resulted in the largest solar installation on a primary school in Oxfordshire, and one of the largest in the UK.

Twenty three Oxfordshire schools are now ‘live’ in the Low Carbon Hub’s Solar Energy for Schools scheme.

With 384 panels on its roof, Orchard Fields Community School became host to the biggest solar PV installation on a primary school in the county when it ‘went live’ this month. 

According to the company, the Orchard Fields project is notable not only for its size but for a technology innovation: it uses an export limitation device specially designed for, and approved by the regional grid operator. This allows the project to generate the maximum amount of clean energy possible over the whole the year without overheating the cable between the school and the substation.

Other primary schools that went live this year in the Low Carbon Hub’s Solar Energy for Schools Scheme are: Botley, Bure Park, Chilton, Fir Tree, Middle Barton, Nettlebed, Stonesfield, Thomas Reade and West Kidlington.

The schools will all receive discounted renewable electricity for 20 years, and make a significant contribution to reducing Oxfordshire’s carbon dioxide emissions. 

Low Carbon Hub’s Solar Energy for Schools project will see 5000 solar panels with an installed capacity of 1MW installed on 23 schools across the County by April 2016. These installations will prevent the emission of up to 5000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The schools project will also generate up to £50,000 a year in community-benefit funds for further community energy projects. (Low Carbon Hub’s Solar Energy for Business project, which includes solar PV installations with Norbar Torque Tools, Oxford Bus Company and Prodrive, will contribute a further £600K+ to community-benefit renewables projects over the next 20 years.)

The Low Carbon Hub’s community benefit model is a win-win for all involved according to the company. Individual schools have been struggling to develop renewable energy in isolation because of the high upfront costs. By working together with Low Carbon Hub in a community-benefit model, schools can get solar energy at no cost to themselves and generate funds that make additional renewables projects possible.

Anthony Simpson, Schools Project Manager at Low Carbon Hub, said “Solar projects are an inspiration to children and staff, and also provide a uniquely effective educational resource. Children can monitor how much energy the panels are generating relative to the weather, learn about tracking these relationships in graphs, and gain a better understanding of climate change, renewables and community energy.” 

Dawn Shilston, head teacher at Orchard Fields Community School said, “This project has been an invaluable exercise in educating our pupils on the importance for us all to explore the possibility of using renewable resources for our energy.”

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity