Solar for Schools News & Blog

Sep 26th, 2018

Record number of schools going solar

The total number of schools who went solar with us this summer is record breaking!

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Sep 7th, 2018

Starting off the new school year with solar

As autumn begins, we have an opportunity for you to support students going back to school.

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Feb 6th, 2018

Why a school struck a deal to pay more for sustainable electricity

Securing energy costs through solar panels could be the soundest financial decision you make in 2018.

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Nov 10th, 2017

Salix funding now available for solar

Overview of the criteria, conditions and benefits of funding your solar projects through Salix

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Oct 16th, 2017

We’ve made sustainability education a top priority

Our Education website goes live, as we make a visit to the World Environmental Education Congress

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Sep 1st, 2017

What have we been up to this summer?

We are excited to announce the opening of Solar for Schools in India.
Over the last 6 month, we have worked on setting up a local subsidiary in Chennai, India, piloting our program with our local partner, Suresh Oliver, who is investing in the local subsidiary and will be managing the local team and operations.

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May 18th, 2017

Bond Issue Closes Over Target

Our bond offer closed 2 weeks ago, and we are happy to report that we raised over £10,000 more than our goal, before closing date, from 47 different investors. A very good result indeed!

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Mar 7th, 2017

CBS Second Bond Issue Opens Today

Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society Ltd is excited to announce the issue of its second round of solar bonds in partnership with Ethex – starting March 7th 2017. By investing in Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society Ltd (‘CBS’), investors are making a social impact investment to help schools in the UK access clean and renewable solar electricity.

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Feb 20th, 2017

We are partnering with Pupil Asset

We are excited to announce our partnership with Pupil Asset, who provides schools with an advanced Management Information System (MIS) that allows flexible tracking and comprehensive & in-depth assessment tools, while enabling easy communication with parents. This partnership aims to enhance our educational programmes, like the Energy Detectives programme, for those schools that work with Pupil Asset by integrating our energy reporting tools into their software, making our information about solar power generation and energy use more easily accessible and useful to schools.

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Feb 14th, 2017

We are utilizing the Energy Managment System Solar-Log™

We are excited to announced our collaboration with Solare Datensysteme GmbH (SDS), which will allow us to better our solar energy monitoring capabilities. SDS is the manufacturer of the Energy Management System Solar-Log™ and a leading company in the areas of solar monitoring, smart energy and feed-in management.

Riemerling Panels und Kinder

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Oct 10th, 2016

Profit Share for all: Future Bright for Solar on Schools

Schools are being urged to continue to look to solar panels for renewable electricity supplies, despite the fact that October sees many schools facing the lowest government subsidies since they were introduced in the UK in 2011.

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Oct 4th, 2016

Solar Options for Schools Ltd receives £512,000 investment to help more schools!

Solar for Schools, an Internet-based, social-impact company which is developing an online route for schools across the UK and Internationally to help them go solar, closed a £512,000 investment round from nearly 50 selected investors worldwide on the 30th of September.

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Jul 26th, 2016

Our first investment round

Solar for Schools is a social impact, internet based business enabling schools to generate their own solar energy. The award winning company is backed by experienced investors and the Low Carbon Innovation fund. The team now manages around 10,000 solar panels on 47 schools and with about 50 school enquiries a month, funding is now required to develop the software platform further and scale up.

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Jul 14th, 2016

How A Community Benefit Society will work for you

Schools that choose this option and become members of the Community Benefit Society (CBS) will have a share in the success of those systems. We will continue to manage the systems and funding and receive management fees from the CBS, but now any profits will be shared with the schools and the schools vote on how any profits that accumulate over time are used; from buying equipment for member schools to re-investing in solar panels on other schools.

We are very excited about this as in addition to a share in any long term profits that can in many cases double the long-term savings from going solar (after investors are paid and renewable power and educational gains have been delivered to your school), it also increases the number of potentially lower cost funding options so we can help schools that only have room for a smaller system, as a CBS can:

  1. Crowdfund from school parents and local communities to raise money without costly regulatory approvals both as donations or interest bearing bonds.
  2. Attract low interest, long-term loans, from charity focused banks and ethical funds.
  3. Access grants for schools in rural areas in order to make projects economically viable.

Which in turn translate into greater savings for the schools.

Contact us to find out more:

ann@solarforschools.co.uk or helen@solarforschools.co.uk

T. 01284 530020

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Jun 28th, 2016

Raising 400k investment to help more schools

Last week saw the launch of our crowdfunding campaign, aiming to raise £400k in exchange for 15% of the company on Crowdcube, the UK’s leading crowdfunding platform, to develop our online platform further.

The additional funding will allow us to:

  • Automate more processes and reduce costs so we can help more schools go solar
  • Develop a project based learning opportunity for schools.
  • Increase the funding options available and set up community benefit societies so schools.
  • share in the long-term profits of having solar panels in addition to saving on electricity bills.

With about 50 schools a month registering on our website, automating and improving our processes is now key to being able to help more schools cost effectively. Our goal is to create a scalable online platform covering all the steps required from assessing a schools potential and determining the most suitable size to raising the funds and managing the installation and long-term management of the systems.

Robert Schrimpff CEO said, “Whilst we could raise this amount of money from institutional funds, and may in future do so, given the emotional appeal of what we are doing and the number of people who have expressed their desire to support the company, we wanted to offer everyone the opportunity to become part of the company and share in its success.”
This investment is a further step in Solar for Schools bold mission: to help up to 1 million schools worldwide, to install solar panels that will save money, generate clean, safe electricity and reduce global emissions by a total of 50 million tonnes a year while inspiring the next generation to live more sustainably.

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Apr 22nd, 2016

How much will I save?
How much will my school save over 20 years with solar panels?

First, I would argue that this is the wrong question. The question should be: Can I make the world a better place without it costing the school anything? Or: How much would it cost to provide a real life example on how to generate clean renewable energy on campus and integrate that achievement into the education of the children whose​ future we are shaping? The answer to these questions is easy. In most cases it can be done at no additional cost to the school and could save hundreds of tonnes of carbon and help prepare thousands on living more sustainably.

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Mar 21st, 2016

New Partnership with Eco-schools England

Eco-schools England has joined forces with Solar for Schools to encourage more schools to get renewable solar power into their energy mix.
As part of the new partnership, Eco-Schools endorses the work of Solar for Schools, and its ethos to cut the carbon emissions of schools nationwide in addition to improving the teaching and learning opportunities for students.

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Mar 7th, 2016

Solar for Schools wins Rushlight Sustainability Initiative Award

At Solar for Schools we are celebrating after scooping a prestigious Rushlight Award in recognition of our pioneering work, both enabling schools to benefit from the cost savings opportunities whilst also educating pupils on the issue of sustainability and the importance of renewable energy sources.

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Jan 21st, 2016

Top 10 reasons why schools are installing solar panels

With the Paris talks now over and millions of demonstrators globally relieved at having succeeded in persuading world leaders to commit to keeping global warming below 2 degrees, you might think that global warming has been solved and we can relax. Unfortunately closer inspection of the agreement reveals that no country has agreed to a binding target, but simply to present binding targets within 5 years and somehow become carbon free by 2050. So the hard work remains and it will be down to the efforts of many individuals to ensure we can show the UK and the world how to start decarbonising modern society.

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Jan 11th, 2016

A solar panel installation… in a language you understand!

I can admit now to feeling some serious apprehension when I was first approached and offered a role at Solar for Schools. Of course, I loved the concept and I really embraced the ethos of the company, but the technical stuff….well I feared it would leave me cold and unresponsive.

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Jan 7th, 2016

The Low Carbon Innovation Fund invests in Solar for Schools

The University of East Anglia's Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) has invested into Solar for Schools. LCIF joins an exclusive syndicate of experienced venture capital professionals and entrepreneurs who are investing in Solar Options for Schools Ltd, who run the Solar for Schools initiative. LCIF contributed just under half of the six figure funding round. The investment will be used to accelerate the development of additional funding options for schools, such as online fundraising and investment-style crowdfunding, more online learning materials related to renewable energy for students, and international expansion.

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Dec 22nd, 2015

How the confirmed change to subsidies will affect solar on schools

The government announced today the results of its consultation on renewable energy subsidies. Following huge amounts of campaigning from 10:10 and Greenpeace in addition to thousands of letters with feedback and support for renewables, the government has reconsidered the tariffs they will pay.

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Dec 8th, 2015

New Online Solar Savings Calculator for Schools Launched

The new online calculator provides an estimate on the schools maximum potential based on our database of 24,000 schools in the UK and then calculates costs, savings and funding required to achieve them for 3 different system sizes based on expected subsidy levels.

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Dec 2nd, 2015

The anticipated tariff cuts have been unexpectedly delayed

We were all expecting the announcement last week, that solar subsidy rates would be cut from 1st January 2016. But there has been a delay presenting this to Parliament, so we will now be able to continue to install into January and possibly February.

This means we can still offer a fully funded system, FREE to schools that can act quickly. If you know you want solar and you can move fast in terms of obtaining signatures on the agreement, we can work on your project with a view to an installation as early in 2016 as possible.

A solar installation on your school, signed up before the end of December will give you significantly discounted electricity. If you leave it until next year, you can still go solar but there will be no discount on your electricity.

Of course, there are no guarantees so if we are unable to complete in the timeframe, then we would look at several other options open to you. But, what is clear is that savings can still be made and your school could benefit from a larger, funded system with much better savings.

WHAT TO DO NOW?

  • TALK TO US - Helen will respond to an email or answer your call - 01284 530020 - for longer hours this week to cope with demand. Talk to us about your school and your plans.
  • BE QUICK - it will be first come, first serve and we can only install on a limited number of schools in the limited time available. We have to get DNO applications in and equipment ordered in the first two weeks of December!
  • LOOK AT THE ONLINE CALCULATOR - this will give you choices post tariff cuts. Compare this to the original figures we sent for a fully funded system and you will see the difference if you can act quickly.
  • If you haven't got your original proposal or can't find it, email helen@solarforschools.co.uk and she can send it across to you quickly and easily.
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Nov 30th, 2015

Mains Electricty Prices are Increasing

Steep price hikes for electricity

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Oct 19th, 2015

Options for Solar on Schools from 2016

Missed the deadline to apply to install solar this year before government slashes subsidies for solar as announced?….

All is not lost – At Solar for Schools we are working on options for 2016 if indeed the government slashes subsidies as proposed.

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Sep 14th, 2015

Why schools should hurry if they want to maximise savings from solar

The proposed changes to the UK’s solar subsidies from January 2016 will:

1) Dramatically reduce benefits to schools from installing solar.
2) Create a massive rush to complete projects before December 2015.

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Sep 4th, 2015

Government change to subsidies will affect savings for schools

Last week an announcement from the government indicates the government plans to cut solar subsidies for new systems installed from January 2016 by nearly 80%! This does not affect systems currently in place or those that are installed before the end of 2015 BUT Schools installing systems next year, will not benefit from the savings we have quoted.

What does this mean?

Schools that install solar Systems BEFORE mid-December will be able to buy electricity from us at up to 50% lower price than they are currently paying.

BUT if the proposed cuts to subsidies of up to 80% go through, and we think they will, systems installed next year will only be able to buy electricity at 5-10% lower price. So, a school that could save £5000 a year if installed in 2015 may only be able to save £500 a year at best if done next year.

What is Solar for Schools doing?

Solar for schools are working hard on the figures and with the government via industry bodies. We need to determine what a reasonable cut to subsidies should be and how much we can cut costs in order to maximise savings to schools. The exact reduction in savings for schools that install next year vs this year is unclear, but what is clear is that they will be dramatically lower. Many in the industry believe solar will no longer be economically attractive at all.

We are working hard on alternative funding models including Crowdfunding that would enable us to continue offering attractive savings to schools, but it is clear that the greatest savings will go to schools who can manage to install this year.

Can you speed up the decision to go solar on your school?

Unfortunately all this means that we only have a few weeks left in which to submit grid applications for interested schools. We need signed agreements from schools before the end of September.

If your school is interested and can collect signatures quickly please contact us ASAP. We will do our utmost to try and complete your school project in time and are prepared to do some work upfront at out risk while you collect the required signatures.

Whilst the cut in subsidies makes a dramatic difference it doesn’t change our thinking, we still want the same end goal – schools going solar and more renewable clean energy being used.

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Aug 24th, 2015

Even my little daughter gets it!

A few days ago, my daughter showed me a picture of some solar panels on a building and said with great excitement: “Look they are making their own electricity. Just like you are with schools!”

Although she is just 5 and going to the local kindergarten, when she saw the picture of the shining building in a children’s book, she knew exactly what it was.

OK, so my children know what I do for a living and I may have explained once or twice how a wind turbine works or what the dark pieces of glass on building roofs are as we pass them by in our car, but I was still surprised that she recognised the solar panels on her own accord from a photo. More than that though, I was really delighted that she was so excited about what it means. It makes our efforts with Solar for Schools worthwhile.

Martin, Co-Initiator

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Jul 3rd, 2015

Solar For Schools team launches in Germany

Following the success in the UK, where with their local partner Engynious, 30 schools are now benefiting from solar panels, the team has been working on a German approach aimed specifically at helping Kindergartens and small private schools save energy costs by using solar panels.

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Jun 15th, 2015

Free solar panels for schools. Are they really free?
Suspicious of the term ‘FREE solar for schools’? After all there is no such thing as a free lunch.

We are not entirely happy with referring to what we do as “free solar panels for schools”. Whilst it is true that normally the school will incur no costs, either upfront or otherwise for installation of solar panels on the school roof, does this really mean the solar panels are free?

Free in the end

At the end of the agreement period, the panel’s ownership will revert to the school. At that point I think it is fair to say that they are free, but until then, the people who invested in buying, installing and maintaining them own the panels. So more accurate descriptions would be:

  • “fully funded solar panels”
  • “third party funded solar panels”
  • “investor funded solar panels”
  • “rent a roof in exchange for cheap electricity scheme”

Unfortunately none of the above descriptions are widely used by either companies offering funded solar panels or people looking for them, so we are rather stuck with ‘Free solar panels’.

Is there a catch to ‘free’ solar panels for schools?

No, but some argue that councils or schools should borrow money and own the solar panels directly, as they cut out investors who are expecting to make a return on their money. In theory, owning the panels themselves should provide a greater overall saving to the school, but in practice this is only true if the following apply:

  • The school is allowed to take on debt to pay for the system.

This is not usually the case in council run schools, FOE is campaigning to change this and we fully support them, but given government deficit, I would not hold your breath. I don’t think the environment can hold its breath much longer either.

  • The school has a lower cost of capital than investors prepared to fund solar.

This is probably true in the case of government-backed schools, but less likely in private or academy backed schools.

  • The school can buy and install reliable solar at lower cost than specialists.

Funded solar providers typically buy in bulk and as they install on many schools each year, benefit from economies of scale and thus should be able to do so at a lower cost than a school. Finally as their returns depend on the system working well for 20+ years, they will choose equipment carefully based on experience rather than just price. Not easy for a school to beat this.

  • The school will monitor and maintain the system over its lifetime.

Solar panels have no moving parts and are very reliable, delivering years of silent energy generation, but equally when they fail it is not at all obvious unless they are being monitored. Most schools do not have the time or skills to monitor, maintain and deal with repairs as needed.
Of course the school or council could hire a solar consultant to help them with the entire process from roof surveys and electrical connection to potential saving calculations. Then get quotes for installation and maintenance, arrange additional insurance and loans and oversee it all. The consultant’s costs will easily be greater than the first few years net surplus after financing and maintenance costs. In fact the consultants costs may never be recovered from the solar panels if the system is small or does not go ahead at all.

Our view is that every school in the world should have solar panels installed, regardless of if funded by governments or third party investors, and the sooner the better. Whilst we offer a fully funded option (free solar), we are also happy to work with schools that wish to fund it themselves. I.e. we can provide design/construction and maintenance services.

Any other potential issues with free solar panels for schools?

Yes, all funded solar programs require the building owner and school to enter into a long-term agreement in order to provide the investor with the confidence to invest. These agreements vary between suppliers of 'free' solar panels, but typically consist of either a roof lease agreement and separate Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or single agreement covering the (PPA) and license to use the roof. Regardless of the type of agreements used, they require the following conditions:

  • Use of the roof for 15-25 years
  • Purchase of any electricity from the solar panels during the agreement period at an agreed rate

Depending on the limitations and guarantees attached to the above conditions, some schools may not be able to enter into the agreements. Typically the lower the price of electricity offered in the PPA, the stricter and less flexible the conditions become as investor returns will be lower and thus the investment needs to be made safer for them.

Ultimately a school and its landlord will need to choose between level of expected savings and contract flexibility.

SolarforSchools uses a combined PPA and license agreement (Solar agreement). Unlike a lease agreement it does not require an entry in the Land Registry and thus is easier to implement and more flexible. We pride ourselves in having the most school friendly agreement in the market, focused on minimizing risk and distractions to the school whilst providing reasonable overall savings from larger systems, rather than simply offering the lowest cost PPAs on small solar PV systems.

Alternatives to ‘FREE’ solar panels for schools

Assuming the school does not have lots of spare cash it can’t invest in children’s education, there are a few other options a school can use to fund the panels. They are:

1. Fundraise donations from parents to pay for the solar panels

If your school’s roof is relatively small, parents and the local community are very engaged, then working with a charity such as 1010, who run solarschools.org.uk and help schools runs solar fundraising campaigns may be an option for your school. Probably the most satisfying option as the school keeps the solar subsidy and the savings, but it is a lot of work.

2. Lease the solar panels

A number of installers and equipment vendors offer leasing options. Assuming your school is allowed to lease equipment this may be worth considering as the school normally gets to keep the Feed in Tariff (FIT) subsidy that is paid for every unit of electricity generated and then simply pays a monthly lease rate. The school needs to consider who will be responsible for equipment maintenance and what happens if the system is not generating enough savings to cover the monthly lease costs. (Winter months and during repairs).

Overview of funding options for solar on schools

We have put together a downloadable cheat sheet table comparing the different funding options for solar panels on schools here.

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Jun 8th, 2015

New Feature: Share solar power generation results

As part of our on-going development to help schools save money and educate future generations in the potential of renewable energy, we are pleased to announce that all schools in the Engynious Solar for Schools program can now easily add some code to their website that will display the school’s solar panel output for the current month. The graph is updated automatically each day and links back to the charting page on the Solar for Schools website, where realtime day charts and monthly summaries can be seen.

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May 11th, 2015

Solar for Schools delighted to promote 1010 and their SolarSchools programme

There are many ways to fund solar panels on a school. Whilst of course we like our solution for schools, we admit that for some schools, raising the money from parents and engaging the local community at the same time may be more suitable. Doing so can also provide a better total return to the school, but of course it is also much harder unless you have some help. That is where charity 1010 and their Solar Schools project come in. Every year they work with a small number of schools to help them raise the money for solar panels from donations. We think it is a great initiative for smaller systems and are delighted to help promote the charity and its work.

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May 6th, 2015

Welcoming a new team member

Welcome to Helen, who joined the team a few weeks ago. Helen is the ‘face’ of Solar for Schools and will be the person you can speak to or email anytime with your queries. She has hit the ground running and is already busy communicating with parents, governors and staff of schools all over the UK.

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Apr 28th, 2015

Solarforschools.co.uk is the new website initiative developed in partnership with Engynious, an experienced solar panel installation and management organisation. Solar for Schools, as its names implies, is entirely focused on helping schools obtain solar panels at no cost to the school and provides a platform where they can learn about how much their school could contribute to CO2 targets and energy cost savings. Engynious then installs and manages the systems at no cost to the school for 25 years. The School saves money by way of reduced price electricity.

"A similarly named organisation solarschools.org.uk have a similar goal. However, they help schools fundraise to own the panels outright and keep the government incentives.". Run by charity 10:10 they support schools in raising funds needed to pay for solar panels. Schools that apply to solarschools.org.uk and are accepted, then work with Solar Schools to raise the funds from parents and the local community by way of donations. “The last few years of Solar Schools have seen communities achieve incredible things. Armed with our toolkit, training and support, our schools have raised over £470,000 to install solar PV on their roofs. Bringing a community together to raise the cost of solar panels for their school is a powerful way of cutting carbon emissions, supporting school budgets, changing attitudes to renewable energy and boosting community skills.” - Amy Cameron, Community Crowdfunding manager, 10:10

Solarforschools.co.uk offers something different – Engynious’ investors coupled with government funding means the school does not have to raise the money themselves. Solar for Schools does all the heavy lifting. Robert Schrimpff explains. “With our partner Engynious, we manage it all from checking the roof, obtaining finance, installing the panels and managing your electricity supply”.

Glen Lillo, Head Teacher at Oasis Academy Shirley Park Primary, who signed up with the Engynious Solar for Schools programme a year ago, said, “When we first heard about the programme we thought it was too good to be true. You pay for the renewably generated electricity you use at a cheap rate but everything else is free of charge; install is free, panels are free, upkeep is free. And it's true!"

Anyone can submit a school to find out how much their schools can save – a parent, governor, staff member or part of the community in which there is a school – Anyone who wants to help a school and support a sustainable future should be submitting their school on the Solar for Schools website.

Ends.

Notes for the Editor:

All media and advertising queries should be made to:

Helen Biro, Communications Manager

helen@solarforschools.co.uk

T. 01284 530020

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Apr 10th, 2015

Parkside Academy sourcing 50% of their energy demand

In the last days with plenty of sun, Parkside Academy in Willington Crook could source half their energy demand from the PV panels!

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Mar 31st, 2015

SEEd supports Solar for Schools

SEEd supports Solar for Schools. Environmental and sustainability education campaigners SEEd is supporting the Solar for Schools initiative to reach out to parents and governors through social media and internet marketing so more schools are aware of the opportunities that exist today of having solar power.

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Mar 30th, 2015

Nine schools register in test period

Nine schools register in test period DATE. During the run up to launch of the site, nine schools have already registered for details of the Solar for Schools programme, as a result of our Beta testers speaking about it to friends and family.

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Mar 23rd, 2015

Performance data goes live

Parents and Students can now monitor the performance of their school's solar panels via the School page of the Solar for Schools website. Over time we will be adding more features such as the ability to embed the results into the schools own website or facebook page.

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Mar 16th, 2015

Website is now in open Beta

After weeks of closed testing, the website is now open. So please feel free to like and post the website and tell other parents about it. The official launch will be later this month.

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Feb 1st, 2015

New Joint Venture

Engynious Clean Power (UK) Ltd has joined forces with Internet entrepreneur, Robert Schrimpff and experienced renewables project developer Martin Augustin, to create a new venture called Solar for Schools which aims to reach out to schools through social media networks.

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