Australian self-powering classrooms get A+ for sustainability


Two schools in Sydney and Wollongong, New South Wales, are testing technology that allows them to utilise renewable energy to be self-powering.

These schools are highly energy efficient and have the potential to be removed from an already over-stressed grid.

The trial is being financed through the government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA is directing $368,000 towards12 month project.

The project includes portable, modular buildings manufactured by Sydney-based Hivve. The modules incorporate solar panels and smart technology including real-time energy metering, CO2 monitoring, data capture and communications.

The technology allows the schools to monitor and manage energy usage, control indoor air temperature and optimise the learning environment.

The classroom is also designed to make the most of natural light, acoustics and layout to promote learning and retention.

On average, school classrooms consume 3800 KWh a year. Hivve classrooms are designed to generate enough electricity to power themselves as well as enough surplus electricity for another two classrooms, an estimated net energy generation of 7600 KWh a year.

However, St Christopher’s Headmaster Tony Boyd says early indications from their classroom show it could far exceed this benchmark.

“The data summary for the week to Feb 5-11 shows our classroom generated 472.8kWh,” said Boyd. “That single classroom generated enough power to power 6.6 similar classrooms.”

Boyd says further that this could be a powerful learning tool: “The kids love it because it’s a very comfortable, inviting space, but they are also really interested in monitoring how much electricity it is generating.”

“Our teachers are currently working with a science and technology curriculum consultant to write a study unit on power usage and generation, which we are basing on our sustainable classroom.”

Boyd said the advanced design of the building, with its emphasis on sustainable materials, thermal efficiency and ergonomics, was also inspiring students.

“A couple of our classes are using different aspects of it. For example our Year 5s are studying the design aspects of it. It’s good having it on site as a real example to collect data from.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said there is great potential for Australia’s public schools to not only educate on renewables, but also reduce their reliance on the grid.

“This is a great way to get the next generation involved in renewables at an early age,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The success of the Hivve project could lead to a nationwide adoption of the modular classrooms, reducing reliance on the grid and even providing a significant amount of electricity back to the National Electricity Market.”

Image credit: Stock