Summer solstice call for solar schools
On the longest day of the year (Saturday 21 June) Friends of the Earth launched a new campaign calling on the Government to make it easier for schools in Greater Manchester and across the country to install solar panels.
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Volunteers from Manchester Friends of the Earth spent Saturday afternoon at the Ashton-on-Mersey village market where they were face painting and collecting signatures on petition postcards to Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Research by Friends of the Earth shows that schools could save up to £8,000 per year through solar panels  – meaning lower energy bills and more money to spend on other things, such as library books, playground facilities, and bee-friendly nature gardens.
If every school in the UK could install solar panels, they could produce the same amount of electricity every year as used by 380,000 homes  – and save as much carbon as taking 110,000 cars off the roads. 
But many schools have told the charity that they would struggle to afford the upfront costs of solar panels – a 50kW system can cost £60,000 – £75,000. There are a number of ways that they can get help, such as through council support, crowd-funding, or via a private rental scheme. But not every council is able to provide capital, and not every school has time to fundraise – and many would prefer to own the panels themselves.
That’s why Friends of the Earth wants the Government to enable schools to borrow. This would give schools the option of taking out bank loans, or have solar panels installed by a private company at no upfront cost and paying back the money over time, using the savings generated.
Manchester Friends of the Earth spokesperson Morven Oliver-Larkin said:
“It’s time to make use of the clean energy all around us for benefit of future generations – there’s surely no better place to start than schools.
“Children are the future, so having them involved so directly in the process of switching to green energy sources makes sense, on many levels. Getting solar panels on schools is a great way to educate our children about exciting new technologies, and about the environment.
“What is more, schools could save thousands of pounds every year through solar power – just think what they could do with that money.
“We know that many schools want to run on sun, but often they need help with upfront costs.”
The latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that Trafford ranks 253rd out of 380 local authorities, and Altrincham & Sale West comes 472nd out of 650 constituencies in Great Britain, in terms of the number of solar projects installed. 
Friends of the Earth says councils should already be demonstrating leadership on tackling climate change, and helping local schools to go solar would be a practical and useful step forward. 
Members of the public can order a free school solar information pack, or sign Friends of the Earth’s petition to help schools get solar panels, at www.foe.co.uk/runonsun.
NOTES TO EDITOR
1. Photo caption for attached photo: Hannah, Damian, Ali & Morven launch the Run on Sun campaign in Ashton-on-Mersey.
2. More photos available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterfoe/sets/72157644878373548
3. How much money a school is able to save through solar power will depend on how big their system is, and how much electricity they use. Friends of the Earth calculates that a 50kW solar power system could save a school up to £8,000 per year. Around £5,000 could be made through the Feed-In tariff, a payment fixed by the Government. The other £3,000 comes from savings made on energy bills by the school using the electricity generated, plus the sale of any excess energy back to the electricity grid.
4. Ofgem calculates that a typical household with medium level of energy consumption uses 3,300 kWh of electricity per year: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/64026/domestic-energy-consump-fig-fs.pdf.
Friends of the Earth calculates that if every school in the UK has 50kW solar panels, they would collectively produce 1264GWh of electricity per year, equivalent to the electricity consumption of 380,000 households.
5. Assuming that solar on schools offsets natural gas, which has a carbon intensity of 445g/kWh, and if every school in the UK with 50kW solar panels would produce approximately 1264GWh of electricity per year, Friends of the Earth calculates there would be collective annual carbon savings of 562,480 tonnes.
6. Department of Energy and Climate Change data from March 2014 ranks local authority areas and MP constituencies by total solar installed: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/sub-regional-feed-in-tariffs-confirmed-on-the-cfr-statistics. This includes all kinds of solar e.g. domestic, rooftop and land-based solar.
The figures for Greater Manchester are:
|Rank (of 380)||Local authority||Solar PV installs|
|Rank (of 650)||MP constituency||Solar PV installs|
|78||Blackley & Broughton||1280|
|278||Wythenshawe & Sale East||722|
|450||Denton & Reddish||406|
|467||Bolton South East||378|
|468||Worsley & Eccles South||375|
|472||Altrincham & Sale West||369|
|474||Stalybridge & Hyde||365|
|477||Oldham East & Saddleworth||361|
|483||Oldham West & Royton||343|
|487||Bolton North East||339|
|490||Salford and Eccles||336|
|530||Stretford & Urmston||266|
7. Friends of the Earth’s new Schools Run On Sun campaign makes it easier for schools to save thousands of pounds through clean energy. Research shows schools could save up to £8,000 per year with solar power – more money to spend on other things. But many schools struggle to afford the upfront costs of solar panels. That’s why Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to enable schools to borrow funds. Solar schools are the first step in making better use of clean energy right across our towns and neighbourhoods. For your free school solar information pack, or to sign Friends of the Earth’s petition to help schools get solar panels, visit www.foe.co.uk/runonsun.
8. Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: www.manchesterfoe.org.uk. Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
9. Manchester Friends of the Earth has endorsed Manchester: A Certain Future, an action plan for the city of Manchester to cut its carbon emissions by at least 41% by 2020. For more information, visit www.manchesterclimate.com.