New solar panel project unveiled at Swinton school

A school solar panel scheme could be the first of many renewable energy projects in the Dearne, now that a new partnership has been established.

Swinton Fitzwilliam Primary School’s 50kw solar PV array was ‘opened’ on Friday (7 November) by local MP John Healey.

It is the first community energy scheme to be developed as part of the Dearne Valley Eco-vision project (DVEV).

Swinton’s £55,000 solar panel array was paid for by a ‘community share offer’ from Sheffield Renewables. This will be their second community energy scheme funded from more than £200,000 raised in this way from the community.

A new Dearne Valley Community Energy Company, a partnership between DVEV and Sheffield Renewables, will lead the development of more community energy schemes like the one at Swinton and explore the potential for mine water heating and hydro-electric schemes in the Dearne. This is thanks to the Government’s Community Energy Peer Mentoring Fund which has provided funding to allow Sheffield Renewables to support the DVEV to set up this new social enterprise.

Mr Healey, who chairs the DVEV, said: “I’m really proud of our Dearne Valley eco-schools programme. It is the leading programme in the country, and our schools and children have really got behind what we are trying to do in creating a new, low-carbon future for our area.

“So it is right that this should be the first community energy scheme, but I hope it will be the first of many.”

Swinton Fitzwilliam school has played a leading role in the DVEV’s eco-schools programme, which all 45 schools in the Dearne are signed up to.

The solar panels will cut the school’s carbon footprint and reduce its energy costs by 20 per cent.

Dave Berry, Sheffield Renewables board adviser, said: “Schools are an ideal place for our community solar projects as they not only have the benefit of generating lots of electricity but they also engage the children, parents and staff in the debate around climate change and renewable energy.

“It has been great working with the school and Dearne Valley Eco-vision to get the panels up and running and watching the children learn about the power of the sun and renewable technology.

“This project shows how community finance can benefit schools and community organisations in delivering renewable energy projects. Sheffield Renewables raised £55,000 for this project from community shares and both the school and investors will share the benefits.”