Many schools in Ireland put a great deal of effort into making their buildings as environmentally friendly as possible. This helps to reduce their energy bills but perhaps more importantly in the longer term, it provides a good example to the children. The Government has supported schools in recent years with funding being made available to replace old windows and to insulate walls and attics.
There are a number of different green energy solutions that schools use with some of the most popular being rain water harvesting, solar panels and wood pellet boilers.
However I think that solar panels aren’t the best green system for school. Obviously solar panels use the suns energy to heat hot water for use in the building. But because most schools are closed during the summer months, the panels are producing their maximum amount of heat and therefore hot water supply when the building is unoccupied. This can leave hot water lying unused in tanks for weeks at a time. Water quality issues may develop as dangerous bacteria can breed in stagnant hot water when it is left unused. This obviously depends on the school itself as some buildings are used during the summer months for camps and language training.
A better green alternative may be wood pellet boilers. These are a good solution for schools, as they can provide hot water and heating for the school and using a carbon neutral fuel source. The difficulties are that they are less forgiving if regular maintenance is not carried out and a supply of good quality dry wood pellets is a must. Because of this, the Department of Education and Skills are now considering involving private companies to supply and maintain the boilers, i.e. they will essentially sell heat to the school. This leaves the school to concentrate on other matters like educating are younger folk.
The final point to consider about wood pellet boilers is that they require a warm up time period for the fire to take hold and heat the water in the buffer tank. This can take between 30 minutes to an hour and means that the heating controls would need to be set earlier to allow for this. Any heat from an oil boiler is relatively instant by comparison.