St Augustine National School Clontuskert, Ballinasloe, Co Galway and Kinsale Community School have been announced as the winners of the inaugural Schools Sustainability Project competition, an SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland initiative which aims to create awareness among primary and post-primary students about renewable energy, sustainability and biodiversity, and technology and innovation.
Solar Green Energy Partnership
The Schools Sustainability Project competition is the most recent project SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland have partnered on as part of their Solar for Schools programme. Launched in 2020, the renewable energy programme enabled schools and continues to enable them to power classrooms using energy generated from their own roof, helping them to reduce their carbon footprint, and their energy costs.
With an investment of close to €1,000,000, the partnership helped to install and manage internet-connected solar panels in 29 primary and post-primary schools, which are connected via Azure IoT to Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform. The panels installed across all 29 locations have the combined power to generate enough electricity for 68 Irish homes for a full year.
A key objective of the project was to show students first-hand how they can play a part in combatting climate change. Digital screens were installed as part of the project to show the school’s energy use in real time, allowing students to see the impact of the energy efficiency upgrades and helping them and the wider school community to better understand their consumption and how they can become more energy efficient, while also further reducing their emissions.
Solar Schools Education Programme
Following the initial installation, SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland committed to the delivery of an education program to primary and post-primary schools involved in the project. It was from this commitment that the Schools Sustainability Project competition was born.
As part of the Schools Sustainability competition, schools from Connacht, Munster, and Leinster took part in a three-module course on renewable energy, sustainability, biodiversity, technology and innovation. Following these modules, project submissions were made demonstrating the efforts of the schools to improve the environment.
St Augustine National School
Winning primary school, St Augustine National School Clontuskert in Ballinasloe, Galway, undertook a series of activities to help improve the environment including installing a bug hotel to increase biodiversity; installing an environmentally friendly sewage treatment plant; successfully petitioning to change waste management symbols in Ireland and being the first school in Ireland to receive the Climate Action School of Excellence Award.
Kinsale Community School
Students from winning post-primary, Kinsale Community School, undertook a Save the Bees initiative, planting a biodiversity orchard and a hedge row in their school to provide food for bees and other pollinators, and fruit for birds. They will also provide local organic food for the school’s Home Economics department and raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity and the climate crisis.
In a prize giving held at both schools, a sustainability grant worth €2,500 from Microsoft Ireland was awarded to each school, with each participating student also receiving a computer Tablet worth €100 from the SSE Airtricity eStore.
Awards for the winning schools
Following the prize giving, Fergal Ahern, Head of Business Development, SSE Airtricity said: “SSE Airtricity is proud to be Ireland’s largest generator and supplier of 100% green energy. Providing renewable energy solutions is in our DNA and we are delighted to partner with Microsoft Ireland on this educational schools’ competition that engages primary and post-primary students and gets them thinking about the impact they can make on the environment and help to deliver and develop sustainable options.
“The pupils of St Augustine N.S. Clontuskert and Kinsale Community School have demonstrated great intent and passion for sustainability, showing us first-hand how sustainability and renewable energy can combine to help fight climate change while also benefitting their school and community on a daily basis.”
Richard Ryan, Datacentre Community Development Programme Manager, Microsoft Ireland also addressed the winning students: “Microsoft Ireland was delighted to partner with SSE Airtricity to roll out the Solar for Schools Programme in late 2020. Part of this programme was focused on educating the students about the impact the technology could have on creating a more sustainable future for their schools. With that in mind we were delighted to extend the engagement with the schools through this competition and it’s been inspiring to see the way the teachers and students have embraced and engaged in the process. I’d like to congratulate all the schools who participated in the competition, but particularly acknowledge the integrated approach taken by the winners to involve the wider school community.”