Harnessing the sun - the power of the meaningful partnerships (Apr 30, 2024)

Thanks to a major new partnership with National Grid, we've found a way to magnify the power of donations with the sun.

As part of a £2.7m fund to invest in solar energy by National Grid, we’re working with them to help more schools – focusing on schools in deprived areas – to cut carbon emissions and enable us to educate and inspire more young people on how to decarbonise faster.

The move is a significant one for National Grid – helping the organisation to deliver ‘over and above what could be achieved working in isolation’ as explained by the Ellie Patey, their Community Engagement Manager.

ABOVE: National Grid's Ellie Patey presents to students at Ark Kings Academy in Birmingham.

National Grid understands the power of solar energy on school roofs. Aside from the obvious benefits to the schools, the grant will be used to help us attract other sources of funds and ultimately enable over £10m worth of solar projects to happen achieving up to six times more CO2 savings than had they simply donated small systems to schools on their own.

‘How is that possible?’ you may ask, and why is this grant so impactful? Here’s how it differs from other funding approaches…

Imagine a scenario where a well-intended business, or charity, makes a £25,000 donation to a school to install solar. After planning, development and survey costs, they would do well if the school managed to install 20kWp of solar, given the relatively high fixed costs. This system would avoid about 3.5tonnes of CO2 a year. On the face of it, this sounds like a worthwhile initiative, but without proper maintenance and management, the potential benefits of this small system could be short-lived. Unfortunately, there are probably hundreds of small systems like this that are no longer operating, simply because they are too small for anyone to really care or notice.

Instead, through Solar for Schools' unique approach, we can first ensure these systems continue to work for 25 years or more and make that same £25,000 make up to 6 times more carbon savings. Better still, our included education support for teachers and students, could help reduce carbon emissions by even more.

But, not all schools need £25k to go ahead. Sometimes just a £2000 donation is enough to get the economics to work and encourage the school to go ahead, based on a time limited grant. Our calculators and experience allow us to apply just the right amount of grant to help the largest number of worthy schools go solar and thus helping many more schools and increasing the reach of your impact further

ABOVE: Students at Ark Kings Academy in Birmingham taking part in a workshop around the UK's energy mix.

Here is how we are supercharging the National Grid’s funding:

1: Attract additional funders: Grants and donations, as part of the funding mix, enable leveraging of bank finance, without increasing the risk to individual investors which are key to funding these projects. The grants make the investment more attractive to potential backers as it lowers their risk while increasing their impact. The grants help attract social investors, who are happy with modest returns for safe investments, and thus double the funds available to each school project. We can then double that amount again with bank finance, to achieve up to four times the investment amount per school.

2: Economies of scale: Combining funds allows for the installation of larger solar PV systems. With a bigger initial investment, economies of scale kick in, reducing overall costs per unit of solar energy produced. This means that the same amount of money can achieve significantly more solar capacity. £25,000 would struggle to fund a 20kWp systems, but £100,000 will easily fund 120kWp or nearly 6 times as much solar.

3: Increased savings and carbon impact: By leveraging the grants from the National Grid, with funds from individual investors and banks, we can effectively increase savings and CO2 reduction by a factor of six from 3.5t a year to over 20t. In reality, we will probably spread the total funds across two schools, at a slight loss in total CO2 savings, but doubling the number of students that then see solar energy in action and thus much more CO2 reduction from carbon education delivery to twice as many students.

4: Reaching many more schools. Not all schools need £25,000 to go ahead. Sometimes just a £2000 grant contribution is enough to get the economics to work and encourage a school to go ahead, based on a time limited grant. Our calculators and experience allow us to apply just the right amount of grant to truly maximise the number of worthy schools to go solar. This of course means we can reach many more schools and the impact of the grant goes even further.

National Grid's grant is a strategic investment in a cleaner, more sustainable future. The ripple effects of this funding extend far beyond individual schools, influencing wider school communities and inspiring collective action.

" We hope that other companies will follow National Grid’s example and work with us to drive decarbonisation in more schools through solar panels, and through decarbonisation education funded by the sun” says Robert Schrimpff, our CEO.

If you'd like to be part of that meaningful change, contact Robert at info@solarforschools.co.uk to find out about what your donation could achieve.

“Now our roof hums with green energy, powering our classrooms and sparking the imaginations of our young eco-warriors”

Emma-Jane Kelly – Headteacher at Barncroft Primary School

ABOVE: Solar for Schools 'Schools Ambassador', Danielle Parker, leads a workshop with students.

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