Inglewood High School is the pilot school for an energy conservation and generation project running from July 2007 until July 2008. The project is funded by Venture Taranaki, The Ministry for the Environment and is assisted by Ecoinnovations and Enviroschools.
The aims of the project are to reduce power consumption and to enhance sustainability education opportunities in the school. If the project is successful, it will be rolled out to other Taranaki schools.
The project has three strands – conservation, generation and education.
Most people are aware that modern economies are heavily reliant on non-renewable fossil fuels for a large proportion of energy needs. Cheap and plentiful energy supplies are dwindling, yet demand for energy continues to rise year after year.
Fossil fuels have driven the vast economic, technological and population growth now considered to be normal, but this golden ‘oil age’ may be coming to an end. Future generations will have to find new ways of fuelling growth. In the meantime, this generation will have to use energy more sustainably and efficiently until longer-term changes are made.
A number of conservation methods have been applied at Inglewood High School. One of the most wasteful areas was hot water heating. Hot water cylinders were identified all over the school, and in many cases, they were unused or only occasionally used. These cylinders have since been wrapped, timed or turned off altogether.
Meters have been installed in every block to provide a live update of consumed electricity measured in dollars and cents. When a light is turned off, the saving effect is noted straight away on the screen. This has helped students and staff realise the true financial cost of electricity use. The project team is also looking at cheaper lighting options and will be installing more efficient computer systems on a trial basis.
Some exciting generation options are being installed. The most obvious is the wind turbine now located on the front field. This turbine feeds electricity into the school grid but surplus electricity can also be routed to the national grid. The turbine produces about 2 kilowatts in steady wind. Photovoltaic panels have been installed on a north facing roof.
These produce about 1 kilowatt on a sunny day. Both these generators produce data that is wirelessly transmitted to data loggers. The project technical advisor will eventually connect these to the school website so that live generation data can be viewed.
The generating capacity is not large, relative to the annual use of the school, but the educational and trial aspects of the technology are really useful. Solar hot water heating is in the process of being installed. Unfortunately, this has been delayed because of a nationwide shortage of panels.
Education is probably the most important strand of the Enviropower project. The aim is firstly to educate the younger generation and secondly to spread the Enviropower message into the community via the students and their families. Students have wrapped the cylinders, dug the turbine foundations, attended an Enviroschools conference, measured consumption in their own homes and participated in a range of other activities.
There have been Enviropower aspects taught in geography, social studies, maths, science and art. All students were involved in the launch of the project which featured the energy trailer. Segments of the launch day appeared on the TV One show Close Up, which will be back to follow up the project once some of the generation options are up and running.
The social studies department has developed a four-week Enviropower topic, which includes many aspects of conservation and generation such as peak oil, peak gas, global warming, renewable and non-renewable energy and sustainability issues.
One of the key aspects of the project involves educating the community in order to spread conservation methods beyond the school. Students were given watt-hour meters to complete an energy audit of their homes. This involved measuring and recording all of the electrical devices in the home and then trying to reduce unnecessary consumption. Enviropower is about targeting waste, not use.
The Enviropower project has been a great learning experience for everybody involved. This will only continue as the project is fully implemented. As we enter into a future of energy and environmental uncertainty, it’s good to know that Inglewood students will be better prepared than many.