The Bundaberg Christian College takes sustainability seriously, and it has just gone a step further, in an Australian first, and begun producing and storing its own electricity.
While the school is located in a prime region for solar electricity generation, it already collects and treats all of its own water and sewage. So moving to solar generation was an obvious next step, and so the school turned to a local company, GEM Energy, who designed and installed the system along with the Melbourne based inverter maker, Selectronic. The system, comprised of solar PV and batteries, is large enough to significantly reduce the school’s reliance on grid electricity.
The outcome… a 194kW solar system, with 250kW of battery storage! The system which was completed in March, 2016, is claimed to be the largest hybrid solar and storage array ever to be installed in an Australian school, although there are Australian schools with larger solar arrays but not hybrid systems.
As part of the move to the hybrid solar/battery system, the school also factored in a switch from fluorescent to LED lighting, thus reducing its total size and cost. The control and battery component of the project is housed in an onsite 20-foot storage container consisting of a three-phase SP PRO system and the 250kWh battery bank, which is made up of 30 Hitachi lead acid batteries. These store excess electricity generated by the panels during daylight hours to supply overnight demand, including for security lighting and computer servers.
Annually, the system is expected to save the school up to $100,000 by cutting its use of grid electricity by as much as 80 per cent. With these savings, the system is expected to pay for itself in seven years.
Photo credit: “onestepoffthegrid.com.au“. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from One Step Off the Grid, and thanks to an anonymous teacher who made us aware of this fantastic project.