Ministers Foley and Smyth announce the commencement of the Solar for Schools Programme
Ministers Foley and Smyth announce the commencement of the Solar for Schools Programme
Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Ossian Smyth, today launched the commencement of the first phase of the Solar for Schools Programme.
It will provide eligible schools with 6 kilowatts of roof-mounted solar PV, which equates to approximately 16 solar panels.
The scheme will be funded from the Government’s Climate Action Fund, in line with the Government’s recognition that taking action on climate change is central to Ireland’s social and economic development.
The scheme will assist schools in reducing their energy costs and their carbon footprint as part of the response to meeting the 2030 and 2050 Climate Action Plan targets for the schools sector.
The solar PV panels in schools will also be connected to the electricity grid, so that the schools can generate income by powering other homes and businesses with clean energy when schools are closed at weekends and during school holidays.
The typical amount a school can save will depend on a number of factors. However, by way of example, a school with a 6 kW Solar PV installation could expect to save in the region of €1,200-€1,600 per annum on their bill, when the credit they’ve earned for selling electricity to the grid is taken into account.
Monitoring software will also be provided to each school, to allow review and discussion of the energy generated each day for staff and students.
"I am delighted to launch the Solar for Schools scheme today. It will allow up to 4,000 schools nationwide to get solar PV panels to reduce their energy bills and their carbon emissions. This ties in with the strong ethos of environmental awareness and climate sustainability among our students and the wonderful work they do in this area, most notably with the Green Flag initiative."
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth attended the launch and said:
“It’s great that schools around the country will now see their electricity bills drop while doing their bit for the climate. Even when the school is closed for the holidays, they will earn money by selling the power they generate back to the grid.
“When I recently visited a school that had solar panels installed, there was huge interest from the students. Each school will have a display screen to let staff and students know how much power is being generated. I am also delighted that teaching materials will be offered to schools so that students can learn about solar power.”
As well as the obvious financial and climate benefits, it is expected that the visibility of the solar panels on schools will also deliver the added benefit of encouraging discussion and uptake of the technology in the wider community.
The Solar for Schools (Schools’ Photovoltaic (PV)) scheme will be rolled out on a phased basis, commencing with a call for applications to over 1,600 schools from 11 designated areas across the country.
The first phase will open for applications on 30th November 2023. All schools in the first phase will be contacted by the Department and invited to apply from that date. The intention is to include a further eight counties in phase two in Q2 2024 and the remaining eight counties in Q4 2024. It is intended that all eligible schools across the country will have the opportunity to apply to the scheme by end 2024.
The phasing of the programme will ensure a managed and steady flow of work for solar PV contractors. The data gathered during the first phase will also allow for any improvements in the design of the scheme to be implemented in the second and third phases. Counties in the first phase were selected to obtain a good geographical spread including a balance of rural, urban, island, Gaeltacht schools in all regions of the country, as well as targeting counties that have not benefitted from other recent Department of Education climate related initiatives.
Schools in the following areas are invited to participate in the first phase: Co. Clare, Co. Donegal, Dublin City Council area, Co. Galway, Co. Kerry, Co. Kilkenny, Co. Leitrim, Co. Limerick, Co. Offaly, Co. Waterford and Co. Wicklow.
School authorities will be provided with funding from the Department of Education to have the PV panels installed by a registered contractor, with guidance from the Department.
The new scheme is designed to be as streamlined as possible for schools using an online system to facilitate communications with schools. In this regard the Department of Education has set up School Hub, a new online platform which is part of the Department’s geographic information system (GIS).
The online platform will provide a simple, clear and efficient application and approvals process for schools applying for the Solar for Schools Programme.
Schools will be required to get three quotes from suppliers and submit to the Department of Education via the School Hub for review.
The exact budget for the scheme is not being released because it is commercially sensitive. This is because of the need to ensure that contractors deliver competitive quotes rather than basing them on the average funding available per school. The Department of Education will be monitoring the spending under the scheme to ensure that it delivers value for money.
Some schools may not be able to avail of scheme funding immediately due to infrastructure that is not compatible with the new technology solar panels; this may include incompatible roofs or electrical systems.
There are currently 200 Non-domestic solar PV Installers registered with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and 350 domestic solar PV installers. The Solar for Schools Programme is expected to encourage more companies to enter the installer market.
The Department of Education has developed detailed guidance documentation for schools and contractors availing of this programme which are now available at the following link: Schools Photovoltaic Programme
The areas for the pilot phase are:
Solar for Schools Programme Guidance Documentation
The guidance documentation for the scheme is now available at the Department of Education’s website linked here
|Programme Overview and Guidance
|Technical FAQ for Schools
|Schools Application Checklist
|Contractor Code of Practice
|Technical FAQs for Contractors
|Contractor Form of Tender
|Contractor Completion Document
|Contractor Withdrawal Form
If schools have a question about the Solar for Schools Programme following review of guidance documents, support will be available through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) helpline at 01 808 2100 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, commencing on 30th November 2023.
Overview of the Solar for Schools Programme Application Process
The Solar for Schools Programme application process is a simple 5 step process mostly carried out online through the School Hub.
Complete Expression of Interest
Obtain Quotations for the Works
Quotation Approval and Funding
Works Completion and Final Payment
Performance Feedback of PV 12 months post installation
*It should be noted that some schools may not be able to avail of scheme funding immediately due to infrastructure that is not compatible with the new technology solar panels; this may include incompatible roofs or electrical systems.
Savings for schools on energy bills and exporting to the grid
The typical savings a school can make from a 6 kW Solar PV installation will depend on a number of factors, including panel orientation, how much of the generated electricity is self-consumed, how much is exported and the specific electricity tariffs that a school has with their energy supplier, for both the import and export of electricity. By way of an example, if a school were to consume 50% of their generated electricity and export the remaining 50%; then they could expect to save approximately €940 per annum in their bill, as well receive a further €495 in credit for their export; based on a tariff of 38c/kWh and a CEG rate of 20c/kWh.
The Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP23), launched in December 2022, is the second annual update to Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2019. This plan is the first to be prepared under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and following the introduction of economy-wide carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings. Implementation of the Climate Action Plan will create jobs, new economic opportunities and protect people and the planet. The Climate Action Plan 2023 and its annex of actions can be viewed by visiting www.gov.ie/climateaction
The Climate Action Fund was established on a statutory basis in 2020 to provide support for projects, initiatives and research that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets, and for projects and initiatives in regions of the State, and within sectors of the economy, impacted by the transition to a low carbon economy. The Fund supports projects that would not otherwise be undertaken. The Fund is resourced from a number of sources, including official air travel emissions offsets and proceeds from the levy paid to the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) in respect of relevant disposals of petroleum products, after the funding requirements of NORA have been met.