School goes 100% green in Australian first

School goes 100% green in Australian first
As of this year, St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School, located in in Holsworthy, NSW, will be powered entirely by renewable energy.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Federal Government are providing $370,000 in funding to St Christopher’s and Dapto High School to trial a 100% renewable power and smart technology program in their new classrooms.

The modular classrooms – known as the Hivve – combine solar photovoltaic panels, real-time energy and air quality monitoring in order to generate energy and moderate their own usage.

St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School principal, Anthony Boyd, said the initiative started after he approached the facilities team at Sydney Catholic Schools to order a demountable classroom.

“Lisa Eskander, property maintenance officer at SCS, had been approached by David Wrench from Hivve, the company building the portable classroom, to trial a new sustainable classroom,” Boyd told The Educator.

“I have always been interested in making the school as sustainable as possible. We have installed large a solar array, water tanks, veggie gardens, chooks and have related science units.”

Boyd said the opportunity to be involved in the trial was a “no brainer”.

“There are a number of benefits, the most immediate of which is having first-class, temporary accommodation for the extra Year 6 cohort,” Boyd said.

“The classroom is well insulated, well ventilated, light and airy. It has a very effective, self-monitoring cooling/heating system which maintains a very even climate in the classroom. It’s a great learning space. The kids and teachers love it.”

Boyd said there is also a practical cost saving benefit.

“The initial data is showing that the solar panels are generating enough electricity to power the classroom and has enough spare to power two more classrooms,” he explained.

In the first month of operation, the school generated enough electricity to earn around $480 and saved 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

There is also a big curriculum benefit for the school, said Boyd.

“The building has a data panel that allows the children to monitor the energy use and generation, classroom climate and temperature and then see the effect of varying numbers of people in the room, outside temperature, sunlight etc,” he said.

“We are working on writing new a science unit so that the children can look at the benefits of locally generated power and smart building design.”

Boyd said that more broadly, he expects to see a benefit for all schools.

“The sustainable classroom is being monitored against a standard demountable classroom,” he said.

“The differences in the quality of the learning space will be quantified and help to improve the design of classrooms. I think all school leaders would be interested and motivated by this.”

Boyd added that any principal would be seeking to maximise the quality of the classroom learning environment, look at ways to reduce cost especially power bills and have real data and experiences driving the learning of the children.

“All school leaders will want to have these classrooms. I feel very privileged to be involved in this trial,” he said.

The trial will run over 12 months with the potential to roll out nationally.

Related stories:
Cost-effective ways to ‘green your school’ this year
How schools can reduce their carbon footprint