Reducing energy costs and investing in local sustainability education in Dublin
Collinstown Park Community College (CPCC), approximately five kilometers from the Microsoft datacenter in Dublin, sought to reduce energy costs on school grounds and optimize energy efficiency associated with their extensive indoor and outdoor lighting systems. As the importance of environmental sustainability is realized across Ireland, the school also aimed to engage and inform members of the Collinstown community about the importance of renewable energy as a vital part of the country’s future.
Deploying solar power and energy-efficient systems
Collinstown Park Community College worked with SSE Airtricity, Ireland’s largest supplier of renewable energy, and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to utilize funding from Microsoft and an SEAI grant to install energy-efficient LED lighting in CPCC’s main school building and sports hall, as well as outdoor areas.
Additionally, a 30-panel solar array was installed by an SSE subcontractor on the roof of the sports complex, allowing for on-site energy generation and consumption. Unused solar power is stored in four wall-mounted 2.4 kWh battery storage units for use when required. Because the lighting and solar energy projects were completed outside of school hours, the workforce was able to complete the project in a safe environment with no hazard or disruption to students. Microsoft is using Azure IoT Central to develop a solution that ties into an on-site visual display showing real-time energy consumption and generation, as well as the CO2 emissions that have been prevented.
“It’s clear already there are big savings made for the school’s electricity bills. In Ireland, our schools aren’t very well funded when it comes to the day-to-day costs, so any savings there will be very seriously noticed in the school,” notes Paddy Lavelle, CEO of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board. The upgraded lighting system alone results in saving 110,000 kWh per year, and the project is anticipated to cut the school’s annual electricity bill by half.
“SSE Airtricity is delighted to partner with Microsoft to deliver this truly innovative project,” says Stephen Gallagher, the Director of Business Energy with SSE Airtricity. “It successfully combines energy efficiency with the integration of renewable energy and battery storage infrastructure, as well as an educational awareness program for the school, to create an outstanding community engagement project that will also deliver real annual energy and cost savings. We’re also really excited to see how the energy-saving tools installed at Collinstown Park Community College will enable future learning, both for the school community as well as for SSE Airtricity and Microsoft.”
Educating the community on sustainable energy
As a recently registered Sustainable Energy Community, CPCC has created a master energy plan with the goal of changing energy behavior and acting on their mission statement around energy efficiency. CPCC’s energy efficiency educational campaign informs community members of the importance of Ireland moving toward a more sustainable future, and their onsite renewable energy project serves as a steppingstone to greater future sustainability efforts.
CPCC, SSE Airtricity, Microsoft, and SEAI are committed to advocating for and deploying renewable energy in the long term. Several events and programs are planned to encourage additional conservation and energy efficiency efforts in the community. SEAI is working with An Taisce (the National Trust for Ireland) to deliver workshops to students in their transition and first years.
CPCC, thanks to funding and guidance from Microsoft, developed and facilitated an Energy Efficiency Week with SSE Airtricity: a five-day challenge involving 200 students across two age groups, helping students take the role of sustainability leaders and promote green energy among their peers. Students participated in workshops and challenges focused on the causes and global impacts of climate change, sustainability, and renewable and non-renewable technologies. As Oonagh O’Grady, Strategic Partnership Lead at SSE Ireland, said, “It was about creating an urgency within those students’ minds about the issues that we are facing with regards to climate change and the responsibility of all of us to act.” Students took part in a Power Down Day―24 hours where they were challenged to avoid using all technology and social media―and showcased the tips they learned throughout the week around making more sustainable choices.
Sixty transition-year students were also invited to visit the SSE Airtricity-owned Galway Wind Farm, Ireland’s largest on-shore wind farm, and partake in a tour. This provided students and teachers the chance to see the scale and magnitude of operations while also learning how the farm is operated and maintained.
Additionally, an energy efficiency evening was held for the public community, hosting a variety of exhibitors and attendees such as the local mayor, SEAI, and Education and Training Board members. CPCC and its partner organizations’ commitments to sustainability efforts and education in the community is evident and increasing.
According to O’Grady, “At SSE Airtricity, sustainability is at the heart of our business, and we’ve been delighted to partner with Microsoft to demonstrate the economic, social, and environmental benefits of energy efficiency and renewable generation. It’s great to work with a partner that shares our passion for sustainability and renewable energy, and we’re excited to continue working together on more innovative, low-carbon projects in the future.”
“It successfully combines energy efficiency with the integration of renewable energy and battery storage infrastructure, as well as an educational awareness program for the school, to create an outstanding community engagement project that will also deliver real annual energy and cost savings.”—Stephen Gallagher, Director of Business Energy, SSE Airtricity