Major solar fit out for leading national educational institution

One of the country’s most historic schools has gone solar to reduce energy costs and help students, teachers and the school community to embrace a cleaner energy future.  Scotch College in Perth’s western suburbs has been a centre of educational and sporting excellence for the past 120 years, with a network of dozens of school buildings over a 22-hectare site.

Apart from classrooms, halls and auditoriums the school also contains a gym, 50 metre pool, multipurpose library, early learning centre, food tech facilities and a large dormitory big enough to house 170 boarding students.

These facilities have helped earn the school an enviable reputation as an innovative leader in first class education for its 1,500 students. It also draws down a substantial amount of power from the state’s electricity grid. However, its energy consumption from the grid has been reduced by the installation of 1,280 solar panels, enough to fill 10 full size tennis courts.

Key facts

• The school teaches about 1,500 students, including 170 boarders, across 50 educational buildings.
• It was using about 1,650,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year or enough energy to power 250 typical homes.
• With 512 kW of solar PV, energy costs will be cut by an estimated 26 percent, saving $235,000 in year one (including LGC benefit).
• 1,280 panels have been installed – enough to cover 10 tennis courts.
• The use of solar energy will reduce the school’s annual carbon emissions by 576 tonnes, the equivalent of taking 323 cars off the road.

The renewable energy program was managed by Australian energy services business Verdia. CEO Paul Peters said the new solar system was expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 576 tonnes a year and save the school almost $235,000 a year in energy costs.

“The 512-kilowatt rooftop solar system has been installed across multiple buildings within the senior, junior/middle and maintenance school areas. It will replace about 26% percent of grid electricity use on-site with emission free, renewable power.

“It’s cheaper and cleaner than grid power and is a working example to students of a 21st century distributed power system.”

The renewable energy program is expected to pay for itself in just under five years and save the school $4.0 million in reduced energy costs over the life of the assets.

The Scotch College solar installation is expected to be one of the largest single roof mounted systems installed at an Australian school.  Industry analysts predict that WA would surpass one gigawatt of total installed small scale roof top solar in October this year.

Rooftop Solar Installations across Commercial and Industry sector in Australia

The Scotch College project is part of an estimated 68 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar PV systems being developed and installed by Verdia across Australia. This covers retail property, manufacturing, agribusiness, education, health and aged care sectors.

Under the Verdia model, projects are fast tracked via a network of 100 qualified and accredited suppliers, manufactures and installers.

Earlier this year, the Australian Clean Energy Regulator predicted a five-fold increase in the number of accredited Commercial and Industrial sized solar power station projects across Australia in 2018. It classified the C&I systems as those between 100 kilowatt and one megawatt capacity.

Scotch College – 512kW rooftop solar

It expected a total of 500 accredited behind-the-meter solar projects with a total 100-megawatt capacity this year.

At the same time, Green Energy Markets reported that the growth in roof top solar PV in the Commercial and Industrial sector had eclipsed the growth in the residential sector. This matched other predictions that Australian Commercial and Industrial businesses would install more than one gigawatt of ground and roof mounted solar PV systems in 2018.

Mr Peters said the growth could be partly attributed to large increases in the wholesale price of power between 2015 and 2017, the declining cost of solar PV, and the increasing desire of large businesses to take control of energy costs, protect against volatile electricity prices and improve their environmental sustainability.