A solar panel installation... in a language you understand! (Jan 11, 2016)

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.

Article by Helen Biro, who joined Solar for Schools in 2016 to help more schools go solar.

I can't just work for anyone, I’ve always been selective and have to feel I 'fit' – it's almost more important to me than the skills involved, because if I don’t 'feel' the company and if I don’t believe we are making a difference I can’t give it the conviction. When I first looked at Solar for Schools and talked to Robert about what he aimed to achieve and where he wanted to take the business, there was no doubt in my mind that this would be a challenge, but an undertaking that could make a mark on the world, make a difference and really impact. I did 'feel' the ethos and I did embrace the enthusiasm and energy, but there was still an element of doubt on the technical side and I had lots of nagging questions….

Could solar panels really be exciting?

Could having solar installed on a school, really make a difference to that school and community?
Isn’t it really just all too difficult to achieve?
So much health and safety involved, installation issues, roofs, electricity, weather…
To be honest I just thought, it would all be too much to be able to market and communicate the concept.

That was until last month, when I got up close and personal with a school having an installation done.

The team took 4 days to turn an ordinary school into a solar powered school…
So, now I have to admit to being very excited when the installation team arrived and we discussed the plan of what panels where. The design of the layout, all taking into account the electricity access points and the position of the sun to make the most of the building's roof potential.

Previous to this point, all the surveys are simple, quick and easy to negotiate, as professionals come into the school quietly and quickly, measure, check and assess and then file their reports with us. Of course the checklists are endless and the hoops we jump through are numerous, but it's all done with such relative ease the school doesn’t even notice. It's this that made me realise what we do at Solar for Schools is like magic.

Of course, I was nervous, we were installing on several schools, but one was right on my doorstep, in my social patch and I know the staff, governors, parents and children. So it was 'all eyes on Helen' when the team of installers arrived.

A team with a van were first to arrive and several packages had been delivered to the school in the week before. Within a day there were struts on the roofs and inverters on the wall, meters and cabling were all installed on day one. The panels arrived on a pallet and were stacked in the school car park. Close up I could see the intricacy of the elements of a solar panel and I felt the buzz of what would happen in the next few days.

The team took 4 days to turn an ordinary school into a solar powered school and every day the excitement mounted. Even amidst the anticipation of Christmas and thoughts about the end of term, children were keen to see each morning how many more panels had gone on and many were interested enough to ask me questions, or perhaps more importantly ask their parents. It was this that made me realise I am doing the right thing, for the right reasons with absolutely the right company.

If I needed any further enthusiasm I got it on the final day, when everything was all plugged in (of course there are more technical terms but to you and me it’s plugged in). I could immediately see as the sun came up that morning an increase in the electricity being generated. I felt the buzz and saw the difference happen before my eyes. Straight away less dirty energy was being used, more solar energy was generated and a cleaner, greener world was closer.

Of course there are endless possibilities and I am lucky enough to work for a forward thinking company that will allow for opportunities. Now I look forward to re-igniting the sparks I saw in the children and the staff. Christmas got in the way, but I am really looking forward to showing them all the difference they are making, embracing their decision to go solar and congratulating them on this. We will weave into the curriculum work so the children can look, feel and see what happens when a school goes solar and they can experience the magic I did.

All my concerns evaporated and I'm totally on board for the challenging ride. The government haven't made it easy, but I love a challenge and truly believe as many schools as possible should do this. The Solar for Schools team is perfectly positioned to partner schools, take out the stress and make it feel like magic when the school goes solar and I can’t wait to be a bigger part of that in 2016!

Whilst I don’t speak the solar language and I don’t pretend to understand the complexities, I do speak the language of schools. I truly believe schools have nothing to fear and everything to gain, if they partner with a reputable organisation with experience and a caring attitude. The Solar for Schools team provide a balance of knowledge, experience and understanding all explained in the right language for you. One member of staff said to me last week, when I explained what we had been doing in the meter cupboard all morning "Sounds fantastic, what a great thing, why doesn’t every school do this, it’s so simple." Hmmm my thoughts exactly!