Solar Schools officially launched New Zealand’s first solar crowdfunding initiative for schools today with the installation of a 60-panel (PV) system at Henley School in Nelson.
Solar Schools is a collaboration between the Nelson Environment Centre, SolarCity, and the Nelson Building Society. All schools in New Zealand can register with Solar Schools, whose team will tailor the best funding model for each school and implement the programme’s curriculum tools for free.
The programme helps get solar panels on to school roofs by reducing or eliminating the up-front cost. For example, in the Nelson and mid-Canterbury areas, NBS will advance a subsidised loan to schools. This allows the schools to approach parents or businesses to invest in the solar system by way of grants or donations, or by investing through NBS for a fixed return. Schools in other regions would be matched with a financial institution in their area.
What's novel about the programme is the innovative approach to funding, says SolarCity chief executive Andrew Booth.
“Financing solar and energy infrastructure projects that deliver solid returns have long been only available to investors like power companies. For the first time, everyday Kiwis can now invest in solar power for their school,” Booth says.
Henley School principal John Armstrong says the real impact of Solar Schools will be the opportunity to teach kids about energy usage and how to take action to reduce it. Second will be the long-term taxpayer savings.
“The increasing cost of purchasing power units, combined with the falling price of solar panels, means now is the ideal time for us to harness the high Nelson sunshine hours.
“Schools in Asia are all kitted out with solar, and now the technology is a viable option for New Zealand schools to produce power and feed it back to the grid, particularly over the long summer holiday periods."