Woodridge invests in solar power

2019-05-02 06:01
Woodridge College & Preparatory School has invested in a solar PV system, which will see the school reduce its CO2 emissions by roughly 597 tons per annum.            Photo:SUPPLIED

Woodridge College & Preparatory School has invested in a solar PV system, which will see the school reduce its CO2 emissions by roughly 597 tons per annum. Photo:SUPPLIED

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WOODRIDGE College & Preparatory School has invested in a solar PV system, which will see the school reduce its CO2 emissions by roughly 597 tons per annum.

Designed, installed and maintained by solar specialists, Genergy, several classrooms, the dining hall and two school halls, two residences, the library, the administrative building, and the sanatorium will soon feature 1,121 PV panels that upon completion in June, will generate up to 579.26 MWh and reduce its CO2 emissions by roughly 597 tons per annum.

“Our brief was to create a system that reduced the amount of electricity the school pulls from the grid and thereby reduce its reliance on fossil-fuel-generated power,” remarks Genergy Head of Engineering, Michael Stevens. “The solar PV system for Woodridge will have a capacity of 369.93kWp/337kVA, enough to power around 163 average South African households.”

Being a grid-tied system, excess energy generated will be pushed back into the grid. This means the school will be using the municipality’s net-metering credit system whereby any electricity fed into the grid can effectively be banked for later usage during the same time of use bracket it was generated in. In time, Woodridge hopes to invest in a back-up system, which includes a bank of batteries to draw from during power outages.

Apart from enhancing the energy security of the school and its long-term sustainability goals, the system could, over its 20-year lifespan save 10,935 metric tons of carbon emissions, 15,394 kilolitres of water and the planting of 29,727 trees.

Part of the school’s Eco Smart initiative under the direction of Woodridge alumnus Ray Holmes, the aim is to become a leading eco-school in South Africa and a leading globally registered eco-school. Such a goal includes having the lowest carbon footprint per child. Rolled-out in phases, with solar part of the energy generation and efficiency element of the programme, other phases include water security and recycling.

“It is an honour for Woodridge College & Preparatory School to be amongst a handful of schools in South Africa, which are at the forefront of renewable energy in education,” remarks Derek Bradley, Headmaster of Woodridge College. “We believe that it is vital to teach responsible energy practices to the next generation of our country’s leaders, and in doing so foster environmental stewardship practically and tangibly. Our approach allows us to lead by example and assist the country in alleviating the strain on the municipal grid.”

Project funding

Many traditional banks are creating bespoke solutions to fund renewable energy projects, with Standard Bank being one of them as the funder of the Woodridge solar installation. “Approximately 90% of the panels will be in commission by the end of May. Once all the panels are in use, we anticipate a 30% reduction in energy consumption costs. Building into the equation the expected price increase of electricity, the school intends to pay off the initial financial outlay in seven to eight years,” remarks Ray Holmes.

Woodridge environmental ethos

Owing to its unique location on the edge of the Van Stadens River gorge, Woodridge has always nurtured strong ties to the outdoors. It is an essential part of the school’s ethos and is entrenched in how it educates pupils.

With an estimated 30% reduction in energy consumption costs, the aim to utilise savings, once the project is paid off, will be funnelled into projects to enhance the school and develop its offering further.

Woodridge has used the impact of the 2017 fires as an opportunity to modernise, rebuild and restore buildings with energy efficiency in mind, and care for the countryside around the school as it recovers from the fires. The school is using the tragedy as a positive learning experience to understand is surroundings, protect the beauty that surrounds the grounds and lessen its impact in the broader environment.

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