Lit up with bright ideas for a sustainable future

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Eastern Hutt School brings solar energy and science to life with help from the Schoolgen programme and Genesis Energy.

“Yay! No more fossil fuels!”, one young girl yelled when she heard her school was getting solar panels. “She thought that there would be enough electricity to run the whole school”, says Eastern Hutt School teacher, Keryn Akers.

Eastern Hutt School, a 650 pupil school, is one of 33 schools participating in Genesis Energy’s Schoolgen programme. Schoolgen provides schools across New Zealand the opportunity to generate their own electricity. The investment in each school is $33,000.

Specially designed solar panels are placed on school roofs at no cost so that the school can generate a portion of their own electricity from the Sun. Children can monitor their schools’ energy generation using the schoolgen.co.nz website. The website helps them understand how the amount of power they generate is influenced by the weather. Weather data is supplied to the Schoolgen site by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

Teaching resources reinforce learning outcomes about climate change and renewable energy. Children are empowered with information, tools, and real experience of new forms of low-carbon power generation.

NIWA’s Principal Scientist, Climate Research, James Renwick says, “if you’ve got solar panels, you can relate your school’s generation capacity to climate data, in real time. It’s a training ground for future scientists.”

“We did a weather journal for the week”, says teacher Keryn Akers. “We went through each day and there were three things the kids had to look at: how much rain there was, how much cloud cover there was, what
temperature it was. Then the next day we would look at the information
from the day before to see how much electricity we generated. That was really getting them to see that it didn’t have to be a warm day, it just had to be a bright day.”

“It’s a great opportunity for our children to become more aware of uses
of energy”, says Deputy  Principal Kaylene Macnee. “We have produced enough electricity to run all the lights in one of our six classroom
blocks.”

A team of students of varying ages were selected to work with the
teacher and engineer when the solar panels were installed in March this
year. “I was concerned that the glass would shatter to the ground”, says
student Jose Chong, 7, when he saw the glass panels being mounted on the school roof. A group of students interviewed the engineer as the panels were installed.

A selection process establishes the eligibility of primary and secondary
schools that have applied to become a Schoolgen school. The school must be a customer of Genesis Energy, and be able to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. The application must have the support of the school’s senior management team, and Board of Trustees.

Total Genesis Energy expenditure on the programme will reach $2 million by 2010. By this date 42 schools will have solar panels installed.

More information

James Renwick

Principal Scientist
Climate Research

Kaylene Macnee
Deputy Principal
Eastern Hutt School
Wellington

Richard Gordon
Genesis Energy
Public Affairs Manager
Auckland

To find out more about Schoolgen visit:

www.schoolgen.co.nz

Eastern Hutt School students (right to left) are Jose Chong, Grant Baker and Jamie Toomey (pointing).