Yes, we work hard to finance the system via third parties so that the school does not have to. Unfortunately following the government's slash to subsidies by over 70% this is now much harder than it was during 2015. Plans are to scrap subsides completely for solar from end March 2019, but we have a number of options and are working on more, so do register your school so we can determine what we can do for you currently or let you know as soon as we can offer your school a fully funded solution again in the future.
No. Fires caused by solar panel systems are extremely rare, which is why they hit the news when it happens. In all cases the fires were started by incorrect electrical installations or short circuits caused by mishandling or neglect of the cables rather than failures in the modules or inverters.
The programme is being run in collaboration with SEEd and together we will be working to give schools every opportunity to look at how they teach about sustainability and how teaching links to school buildings, grounds and the wider community. We will work with SEEd to help schools become centres of excellence and help others achieve more. In addition, we are working on a growing number of online learning tools for different age groups that will enable children to interact with the solar panels on the schools roof and learn about the challenges and opportunities of relying on intermittent energy generation in a 100% renewable energy world.
A change in government policy will not affect any systems already running, but may have an impact on our ability to provide free solar panels and discounted electricity to additional schools. Based on the last few years, it is clear that schools who did this early have had higher financial rewards and benefited from free electricity, than schools that did it more recently (discounted electricity). From 2016 we expect financial savings to be minimal for new systems being installed, but obviously schools will still be able to make a contribution to society and the environment by installing solar panels funded by other. We don't expect the trend to reverse, so we don’t recommend any school waiting as subsidies are likely to shrink further and total system costs for solar panels including all the paperwork and surveys needed are not expected to fall much even if solar panels themselves get a little cheaper in the next few years.
Very safe. Solar panel systems are relatively simple, have no moving parts and are generally out of reach. If there is a risk that children could tamper with a solar power system, then low voltage systems are available to eliminate the risk of a fatal electric shock.
Nothing, we cover all upfront costs, which is why we ask the school to sign a simple agreement before we start, this ensures that should the school be suitable, we are tasked with installing and managing the system for its lifetime and enable us to recoup our investment over time. We are not a solar installer; we are a solar asset manager dedicated to helping schools everywhere contribute to a better environment whilst teaching future generations about renewable energy.
The first hurdle and most time consuming step is getting the School leadership on board. The initial review we prepare for each school is designed to help with this. How long it takes to convince the leadership team varies, and is usually the longest task. From a few minutes to a few months. From then on we will need a few signatures from the Head teacher, the answers to some questions regarding the buildings and access to the buildings to complete the necessary surveys and then install the system. If we are crowdfunding with the School, significantly more involvement is required in order to market the investment opportunity to parents and the local community.
Based on government spend on electricity and number of students in the UK, a school uses about 650 kWh per year per student. This could be covered by between 4 and 5 square metres of good south facing sloped roof or nearly 10 square metres of flat roof per student. A school with 40 students would need a 20x20 metre unobstructed flat roof. Schools consumes most electricity during the day when the panels are generating power so they are well suited. Never the less, the panels may not always produce enough in the winter and will produce too much on weekends and summer holidays. So even if over a year the system produces enough energy to cover the school's total energy consumption, the school will still need to be connected to the grid so that it can export and import the difference as needed.
It depends mainly on location and size. On a south facing tilted roof a system can generate about 140-150 kWh or electricity per square metre each year. On flat roofs, where you have to allow space between modules so they don't shade each other, output is typically below 80 kWh per square metre per year. A typical school system is between 150 and 500 square metres in size and produces between 20.000 and 200.000 kWh a year. On sunny days larger systems will produce more than enough to power the entire school.
Savings depend on where the school is located, how much electricity they use and how big a system can be installed. The further south and the larger the school, the lower the cost per unit of generated solar power and the more the school can save. Try our online calculator to see an initial estimate for your school. Note that even if the price per unit of solar power required to make the economics work for funding partners is greater than what the school pays today, as electricity prices continue to rise faster than inflation, the school may still save money in the long term. Solar power is a good long term hedge against rising electricity prices.
There are no grants involved, but funding from Investors could dry up if the government reduces the Feed in Tariff (FIT). The government can adjust the Feed in Tariff rate for new installations every financial quarter. If too many systems are being installed, they will reduce them. Eventually there will come a point when investors may no longer be willing to fund new systems. NOTE: This does not affect systems already in place as once a system goes live, it is eligible to receive the FIT for 20 years at the rate set out in the year of installation.
20 years or longer. Savings are based on the reduced electricity prices from energy generated by the panels. The price is set at a price close to current electricity prices but as mains electricity prices are expected to rise over time faster than the solar electricity which is indexed to RPI, savings will start to build up over time. After the initial 20 year period, the panels will be fully depreciated and paid for but will continue to generate electricity for the cost of monitoring, insurance and some maintenance and upgrades.
Once we have a signed agreement, it takes 2-4 months depending on what surveys need to be done and how busy we are. It can also depend a little on if the school needs the work to be done during school holidays.
Solar panels have no moving parts and could last 30-40 years depending on how well sealed they are. In reality most systems gradually produce less power. After 20 years output is expected to have dropped by 10%. Inverters are expected to fail once during that period of time, so either an extended warranty is purchased or money is put aside to replace the inverter when they fail. Some systems have multiple inverters, so that when one fails, not all power is lost.
Yes, we can arrange installation at any time of the year and when it suits the school. You will be given a dedicated liaison person who will arrange your installation and work with you to select the right time and circumstances for your installation, as quickly as possible so you can start saving money quickly.
A standard system would take approximately one work week to install.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are made into panels which can be attached to a roof. Each cell is made from layers of semi conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The more sunshine, the more electricity the panels can produce.
No. Although you may want to change to a green electricity provider such as Good Energy, so that you are 100% renewable. The cost of “green” power is much higher than mains-supplied power, however.
Technically yes, economically speaking no. Battery systems currently cost more than trading electricity with the grid. In some countries like Italy and Germany, the economics are starting to work, so we do see a day when we may offer batteries to schools in the same way as we offer solar today. As a result of the recent changes to UK subsidies, that day is getting closer.
Yes we can arrange installation at any time of the year and when it suits the school. We liaise with the school to arrange an installation time that works for the school.
Yes, but there are strict rules in the UK to protect retail investors, If you are interested, check to see if you are eligible to do so by checking the conditions here.
Yes, some schools will try and raise donations to increase their savings from the solar panels, please contact the school's bursar
You may change your mains electricity provider at any time, but under the agreement you will continue to purchase electricity generated from the panels at the discounted rate adjusted for RPI.
We are only just starting to explore the educational and financial opportunities to schools of providing them with access and tools to analyse the data.
Here are a few examples:
We install additional meters at the schools where we manage the solar panels. These meters collect data on the amount of electricity being imported or exported by the school as well as the electricity generated by the solar panels. Measurements are taken every 5 minutes. The meters are then connected to the Internet and data is then uploaded to our servers regularly depending on the type of internet connection and how old the system is; between twice a day and every 5 minutes.
The charts display up to four key pieces of information related to electricity at the school in a given time period. i.e. (during a day, week, month)
The calculated profit share is based on our assumptions on system performance, how much of the energy the school will use, financing costs and inflation. Schools should not count on the profit share, but think of it as insurance against an investor making too much money from the system. I.e. if all goes as planned or better, the school rather than an investor get the benefit. If it goes wrong, the school still only pays the agreed electricity price.
Solar for Schools collects the subsidy and electricity sales income on behalf of the Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society. From this income, reserves are created for spare parts and repairs, insurance and maintenance costs are paid and interest and capital repayments are made. The remainder is then allocated between Solar for Schools and the schools by the board of the Community Benefit Society based on feedback from the Schools at the Annual General Meeting, at which all schools are entitled to vote.
Lowering the price paid for by the school would reduce the income available to re-pay investors, making it a riskier investment as there would be no spare cash to cover any performance issues. This risk would then require a higher rate of interest to attract investors and in turn push up the electricity price again. So rather than giving investors a higher return, we create a safety buffer, which when not needed is shared between the school and Solar for Schools. This way investors are protected if anything goes wrong and both the Schools and Solar for Schools have an additional incentive to make sure the system delivers as planned. We are motivated to make sure it runs well and children and the school are incentivised to shift as much of your usage to times when the sun is shining via the energy detectives education programme.
If the system is funded by the Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society, any surplus after costs and investors have been paid is shared with each school. The figures above represent the forecast share of profits that the School would receive overt the first 25 years based on the assumptions used.
The Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society was set up specifically to raise funding from socially minded investors and funds, hold the solar panels on behalf of the schools and share any surplus between the schools and us over time. It is governed by independent directors that are elected by the members; the schools who have solar panels funded by it.
The solar panel systems are either paid for by the Solar for Schools Community Benefit Society or the school can pay for them entirely or contribute towards them depending on their individual circumstances. You can compare the options by changing the settings above.