Solar Energy Expands Rapidly in Wellington Schools

17 September 2013

Solar panels will be installed in 16 Wellington schools over the next three years under a joint venture between Wellington City Council and Genesis Energy.

A new agreement signed this week, as part of the Council’s Smart Energy Capital initiative and Genesis Energy’s Schoolgen programme, will expand the uptake of solar energy in the Capital.

Schoolgen funds the installation of solar generation systems and provides educational resources to selected schools around New Zealand, and Smart Energy Capital co-funds projects that reduce energy use and increase renewable generation.

The agreement will see solar photovoltaic panels installed in eight primary or intermediate schools in the first year, with four more schools in each of the following two years.

This allows the schools to generate a portion of their electricity from the sun, and the Schoolgen programme helps their students learn about solar energy, energy efficiency and climate change.

In announcing the agreement this week, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the Council is pleased to be partnering with Genesis Energy, and it shows the Council’s commitment to working closely with businesses and schools to achieve a low-carbon economy for the city.

“Through Smart Energy Capital, which was strongly supported in our Annual Plan consultation, we’re matching Genesis Energy’s funding dollar-for-dollar in this $288,000 project over three years. We can help to reduce school costs and encourage more communities to take up solar power."

Genesis Energy’s Chief Executive, Albert Brantley, says the Schoolgen programme plays a significant role in the organisation’s community investment activities.

"As a company we are keen to support schools in bringing the concept of solar energy to life. By providing the schools and specifically the teachers with curriculum-based resources, we are helping them to build the next generation's understanding of energy and energy efficiency," says Mr Brantley. 

The Schoolgen programme includes free, curriculum-linked teaching resources that can be used by primary or intermediate schools to explore electricity generation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change. Schoolgen’s two permanent environmental educators work with teachers and students at the existing 50 Schoolgen schools plus associated ‘buddy schools’. Schools must apply to Genesis Energy to join the programme.

The second and third years of the joint agreement will include aspects of the schools’ energy management and how energy is used in the home.

Wellington is very well known for its renewable wind energy and our sunshine hours are outstanding. Almost half of our daylight hours are sunny, averaging 2110 per annum. In Germany, their sunshine hours are less than 40 percent – and they’ve been leaders in solar photovoltaic energy generation for many years.

The aim of the agreement with Genesis Energy is to educate young Wellingtonians about renewable energy and build awareness of energy efficiency in their daily lives. The benefits also flow to the wider community – reinforcing Wellington’s reputation as a smart city.