School reaps benefits of solar energy

Above: The German International Cape Town Schools Solar Panel Plant project was officially launched earlier this month.

A new solar energy project at the German International School in Tamboerskloof will not only save the school money in the long run, but also teach pupils the importance of sustainable energy.

The solar energy at the plant was officially opened on Thursday November 10 and the school is already reaping the benefits.

The installation of the PV (photovoltaic) plant was a large scale project undertaken in co-operation with German companies SolarWorld, SMA and Schletter. The installation of the more than 400 solar panels took about 15 months to complete.

The new technology at the school contributes towards the reduction of carbon dioxide, by around 175 tons a year. It will also be incorporated into the school’s curriculum, and reduce the electricity bill significantly.

The school’s bursar, Helga Ewers, said they can see how much energy they are creating with the solar panels and how much they can send back to the City.

“For education purposes you can actually see what is happening live and how much energy we are putting back into the grid. We want to use it for educational purposes and show that is the way forward to be sustainable as a school and to be an example as a school.”

She said it was also about creating awareness about the importance of sustainable energy among the wider community.”

She added that in the long term the solar panels would save money after the initial cost had been covered.

The whole system itself cost just over R3 million but the school estimates it will make that money back within seven years by feeding the energy back into the grid.

The solar panel system also has a lifespan of about 20 years.

The school has been open since 1883 and has more than 800 pupils.

“We wanted to set an example and we already started years ago with our water tanks. We have 10 water tanks for our rain water which we flush the toilets with. We are always looking for projects like that and we would encourage other schools and companies to do the same. We believe that this is the way to go,” said Ms Ewers.

The school’s headmaster, Alexander Kirmse, added: “On most days, we supply the entire school with energy from the sun and still feed excess energy into the grid of the City of Cape Town.

“This plant teachers our pupils the value of sustainable energy, generated by green technology and being conscious of environmental changes.”

He said this was all part of the school’s “going green” campaign.

The school’s head boy, Azande Centane added: “I am very proud to go to a school which actively contributes to the reduction of environmental impact, alleviating the problem of energy provision in South Africa.”