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Two blocks . . . Solar panels will be installed on Geraldine High School's Orari and Rangitata blocks.

by Chris Tobin

Geraldine High School is facing the happy situation of cheaper power bills and money saved going towards establishing scholarships.

The school is about to have solar panels installed on the roofs of the Orari and Rangitata blocks in a project called the largest for a school in the South Island and one of the largest in New Zealand.

Once up and running the 45kW solar system will provide 25% of the school’s electricity needs and save $12,000 a year in power bills.

All set to go…The group working to install solar heating at Geraldine High School, from left, Glen Smith, board member, Simon Coleman, principal, Gerald Pemberton of Temuka Geraldine Rotary, Louis Moulton, teacher and Ernie Heatlie, Temuka geraldine Rotary. PHOTO:CHRIS TOBIN

“The savings we make will stay in the school,” principal Simon Coleman said.

“The ministry provides money for heat, lighting and water to run the school and putting in a solar system won’t use as much power.

“The ministry are looking at what we are doing favourably and so the money we get [for power] can go to a scholarship.”

Scholarships will be made available for year 13 agriculture/science students and will be fixed at $7000 each year paid over three years.

The cost of installing the panels has been estimated at $64,000, $24,000 coming from local farmers, $10,000 from the Temuka Geraldine Rotary Club and $6000 from community grants.

The remainder is being financed by people being able to buy and sponsor solar panels at $150 each.

“This idea came from the Tekapo footbridge,” said Gerald Pemberton, of the Temuka Geraldine Rotary Club which has organised the project.

Mr Pemberton said Rotary and members of Federated Farmers had teamed up to have the scholarships for the education of the pupils as well as a way for them to understand sustainability and solar energy.

“Being part of this is being part of a solution to a much larger global problem.”

“We [Rotary] have a history of putting in solar panels over six years. We’ve done it with other schools, Winchester, Woodbury, Geraldine primary, St Joseph’s in Temuka, Temuka primary and Arowhenua school.

“The reason why we haven’t done it for Carew is because they are not in our Rotary district.”

Mr Coleman said the school had a number of other roofs suitable for the installation of solar panels.

“This will, hopefully, be the first stage of a larger installation to a future-proofed solution where our school becomes carbon neutral, or even carbon positive.

“Being part of this is being part of a solution to a much larger global problem.”

Mr Coleman said installation of the system came at a good time, as the school’s coal burner, which produced most of the school’s heating, was being decommissioned to meet clean air regulations.