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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

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Schools lead the way on energy efficiency

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 October 2010 at 3:14 pm

Electricity consumption has halved at an award-winning Devon school thanks to the energy saving measures it has introduced. Okehampton College’s good practice and leadership role was recognised as it was a finalist at the 2010 Ashden Awards.

The college has replaced 3,000 fluorescent lights with low energy tubes and removed unnecessary light fittings since 2006. It is upgrading the roof and cavity wall insulation, conserving water, recycling and growing food.

Pupils are at the heart of the change. Members of the science, technology engineering and maths club (STEM) monitor energy use, and have developed a traffic light system for identifying good and bad behaviour for energy use in classrooms. They regularly give presentations on energy use in assemblies.

As well as reducing its energy use, the college also generates its own renewable electricity. It has 30kWp of solar PV panels installed, and is investigating options for more solar PV, plus solar hot water, wind turbines, a small hydro electric scheme and a biomass boiler.

The school reaches out to the community. It has facilitated energy surveys in all of its 11 feeder schools, and is helping some of them with the installation of solar PV panels. It has also run public events and distributed low energy light bulbs to local householders.

The other school winner of the Ashden Awards was St Columb Minor School in Cornwall, a large rural primary school on the outskirts of Newquay.

With energy monitors in every classroom pupils are actively engaged in making sure lights and equipment are not left on unnecessarily. Their personal pledges to reduce their carbon footprints are displayed in the school hall. The measures are led by and Eco-Team.

Energy saving measures include new roof insulation, lighting controls, double glazing and energy efficient gas boilers. Microgeneration technology includes a 13.8kWp of solar PV panels, and 6kW wind turbine and a 4kW solar hot water system. Panels in the entrance area display the amount of energy generated from renewable sources.

The schools energy costs fell by 10% in 2008/09 and 20% in 2009/10 despite energy price rises of 50%.

An indication of the success of educating pupils in energy saving measures is the following quote from a former pupil and member of the Eco-Team, Jessica King: “I think I need to make an appointment to see the Head of my secondary school. I think I need to bring her to St Columb Minor to see what they are doing.” By

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