Last Winter Peria School, situated inland from Taipa in the Far North, decided it was time to stop paying huge amounts of money per month for power. They also wanted to move to a more environmentally friendly power company, in line with their environmental sustainability focus.
The decile 2 school, which provides education for 31 Year 1 through to Year 8 students, was built over 140 years ago, with the original hall completed in 1928. It is a very attractive heritage rural school on several hectares enjoyed by all pupils whose families come from a community of diverse lifestyles and economic backgrounds.
But it is increasingly expensive to run, with power bills averaging $900 per month. This is money that could be far more usefully spent on essential items for the children.
The School is also proud to be an ‘Enviro School’ which encourages its community to create healthy, peaceful and sustainable communities. The school recycles all its waste, provides the children with a food forest, takes care of the surrounding environment and works to consciously reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact.
The Principal, Jason Tane, began to investigate options for saving money but soon discovered there wasn’t a lot of competition amongst power companies in Northland and decided that perhaps the school and the Board of Trustees should look at options such as solar power which the Board of Trustee’s Chairperson Leigh Jennings realised what an opportunity this would be to become even more self-sustainable. Tane even proposed this become a project for the students.
A sub committee was formed which thoroughly researched the best options for achieving this, alongside the senior class ‘Te Rangi’, who, led by their teacher Mark Pickard, used the exercise as a learning opportunity to investigate the best source of renewable energy. This encouraged the children to play an active role in their school and local community. They both agreed the most efficient and cost effective solution would be to install a solar power system.
The school then approached a number of possible providers for quotes including Roy Maddox, owner of SolarKing Solar systems which supplies solar solutions nationwide. “I couldn’t believe that a small school like this with 31 pupils at this time, had to pay so much per month just on power,” comments Roy. “I could see that the installation of solar power could immediately save the school 60 to 70% of the schools’ power bill, money that they then could spend on much more valuable learning tools.”
After meeting with the school board, Roy proposed that the school install a 10kw grid tied solar power system which would save the school around $6,000 a year at the present cost of power. He then donated the first $5,000 of the installation to the school to help get this project underway as well as donating a $500 commission on the sale of any residential system sold within the local region.
Russel Norman switches on Peria School’s new SolarKing solar system.
The SolarKing installation has now been completed, with Russel Norman, co-leader of the Green Party, turning on the solar system on Tuesday, 25th June.
The Board of Trustee’s Chairperson Leigh Jennings sums up, “We at Peria School want this project to not just benefit our school but also the whole community. We also want to lead the way and be the first school in the far north to use solar panels to generate clean and renewable electricity for our tamariki. This we can now do.”
The school has also developed a name for the solar energy implementation project as part of the Northland Regional Council Environmental Curriculum Awards. This tile is “Tama-nui-i-te-ra: Sustainability through solar power”. This name was chosen because it explicitly mentions solar energy. Secondly it mentions sustainability, which was the main driver for the school looking at solar, and thirdly, it provides a bicultural element. Tama-nui-i-te-ra is the Maori name for the Sun.
We congratulate Peria school on leading the way with their solar initiatives and we look forward to seeing the power savings, and all the benefits this will bring to both the school and it’s pupils.
Russel Norman and Roy Maddox, director of SolarKing Ltd, celebrating the installation of Peria School’s new solar system.