New project to see schools fitted with rooftop solar panels

A new renewable energy project to enable schools to power classrooms using energy generated from their own roof has been announced.

The collaborative project between Microsoft Ireland and SSE Airtricity was revealed today (Monday, September 28) and aims to help schools to reduce their carbon footprint and their costs.

With an investment of close to €1 million, the partnership will see Microsoft and SSE Airtricity install and manage the internet-connected solar panels in 27 primary and secondary schools across Connacht, Leinster and Munster.

Microsoft and SSE Airtricity identified the opportunity to build renewable energy solutions that would enable consumers to generate power from sustainable sources, using the existing grid connection on their premises.

Image source: Naoise Culhane

Through the project, Microsoft and SSE Airtricity highlighted an ambition to prove the viability of distributed energy generation and open up the energy saving and carbon reduction potential of rooftop solar across Ireland and the world.

The software tools aggregate and analyze real-time data on energy generated by the solar panels, demonstrating a mechanism for Microsoft and other corporations to achieve sustainability goals and reduce the carbon footprint of the electric power grid.

Over 15 years, it is expected that the solar panels will produce enough clean energy to offset approximately 2.1 million kilograms of harmful C02 emissions.

Cathriona Hallahan, managing director, Microsoft Ireland, said: “Through the installation of solar panels and the new data-driven insights from Microsoft’s Azure cloud, we look forward to enabling sustainable practices inside and outside the school gate.

“Working together, we hope to open up the energy saving and carbon reduction potential of rooftop solar across Ireland and perhaps one day across the world.”

Image source: Naoise Culhane

Klair Neenan, managing director of SSE Airtricity, said: “We are focused on delivering initiatives that will make a real difference in helping Ireland move a step closer to achieving our ambitious 2030 climate targets, while providing practical energy solutions that will support communities, businesses and policymakers on the collective path to net zero.”

A key objective of the project is to educate students about the role they can play in combatting climate change. Digital screens have been set up in all 27 schools to enable the students to track energy use in real time and see the impact of the energy efficiency upgrades in their school.

According to the companies, as part of the project, students from the schools will participate in a programme “designed to educate and inform young people about the challenges posed by climate change and the role technology can play in creating more sustainable communities across Ireland”.

Image source: Naoise Culhane

Currently in development, the three-part syllabus will cover a range of topics, including renewable energy, sustainability, and technology.

The lessons will be delivered through a series of interactive activities and challenges with the aim of bringing sustainability into daily school life, the project partners say.