Kinsale Community School in Kinsale, Co Cork has been named as the winning post-primary school in the SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland Solar Schools Sustainability Competition. The school took first place with their ‘Save the Bees’ initiative, which saw students plant a biodiversity orchard and a hedgerow in their school to provide food for bees and other pollinators as well as fruit for birds.
The Schools Sustainability Project competition is the most recent project that SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland have partnered on as part of their Solar for Schools programme. Launched in 2020, the renewable energy programme enables schools 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 one million euro, the partnership involved the rollout and installation and management of 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.
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.
In a prize-giving event at Kinsale Community school, a sustainability grant of €2,500 from Microsoft Ireland was awarded to the school, with each participating student also receiving a computer Tablet worth €100 from the SSE Airtricity eStore.
Speaking on the day, Kathleen O’Brien, Deputy Principal, Kinsale Community School said: “Our experience of the Solar for Schools Programme has been highly impactful, it reduces our costs and carbon footprint but also it enables us to educate our students about the positive impact that innovative technology is having on our school, as well as the wider community in Kinsale. Winning the Sustainability Project Competition was fantastic, it really affirmed the positive work that students are doing in terms of finding solutions to local environmental problems.”
Following the prize giving, Fergal Ahern, Head of Business Development, SSE Airtricity said: “SSE Airtricity is proud to be Ireland’s largest provider of 100 per cent 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 whilst helping them to develop and implement sustainable options for their schools.
“The students of 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.”
Further details on the Solar for Schools Programme can be found at www.sseairtricity.com/news.