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Byron Shire
May 30, 2023

Shearwater almost perfect with 99kW solar

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Year 7 students, Head of School, James Goodlet (second from left), and Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson (centre back) celebrate Shearwater’s clean energy future. Photo supplied

Shearwater, the Mullumbimby Steiner School, has made the switch to solar, installing a 99 kW system to power the school into the future.

The new system is part of a multifaceted approach by the school to reduce emissions and improve environmental outcomes.

New Head of School, James Goodlet, has been in the job almost 12 months and said the school’s existing 8kW solar array was failing and the time was right for a major upgrade.

‘The school had planned to install the panels in 2020. But with the onset of COVID-19 came financial uncertainty, and a need to halt spending on infrastructure projects until we had a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic’.

‘With the increase in electricity prices and the reduction in solar panel prices, came the opportunity to install now and make a quick enough return on our investment without a huge financial risk.

School will cover installation costs in four years

‘We estimate the school will cover installation costs in four years. So it’s a win for the environment and a win for the school’s finances.

‘Shearwater has a long history of integrating the natural environment into our educational experiences and philosophy. There is a big push from students to make Shearwater a more sustainable place and it’s great that we’ve been able to support that vision with this project’.

The new solar array is made up of 242 solar panels, each producing 410 watts per module, creating the 99.22 kW system.

‘Unlike a regular household, which is empty most of the day while family members are out studying or working, the majority of our power usage happens during the school day, when our solar panels are hard at work.

‘So, on school days we’ll be using most of the energy we produce. Importantly, at this time of year, there are enough panels to take into account fluctuations caused by wet and cloudy weather.

Many great achievements

‘There has been much work done in this area already, with many great achievements, such as regenerative farming practices, waste management and the decades-long bush regeneration project that has seen the planting of more than 20,000 trees, transforming degraded agricultural land into a thriving wildlife corridor.

‘Our class 7 students have recently finished planting over 700 native shrubs and trees, creating a small forest that they can watch grow over the years ahead.

Climate anxiety

‘Every class across the school is given regular opportunities to help repair and restore the local environment.

‘Climate anxiety is impacting on the wellbeing of many of our young people today. We want our students to know they can be part of the solution’.

Story by Shearwater’s Year 12 English Studies class.

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