22 February 2023
Students are driving the change at Sheldon College, thanks to a 1.2 MW solar installation.
After Year Four students lobbied Sheldon College directors for sustainability action in 2018, the college listened and contracted Goodhew Electrical and Solar Design to design a large-scale solar system, with the aim of reducing their electricity bill and improving the school’s sustainability efforts. The brief was to design an aesthetically pleasing system which fitted in with the existing buildings and could be installed with minimal disruption to school operations. The project recently won the Clean Energy Council Award for Australia’s Best Solar Design and Installation over 100kW.
Goodhew designed a 1.2-megawatt solar system with all black panels, rails, and components to fit in with the school’s black roofs that could be installed in stages during school holidays to completely minimise disruption to teaching. This solar system also acted as a key springboard for the school to carry out other energy efficiency projects such as an air-conditioning and lighting control program which has seen a significant decrease in after-hours energy use and permits HVAC/lighting to be monitored and controlled for each individual room based on the needs of the school timetable.
The system is situated across eight buildings on campus and connected through Fronius Data Managers and a secure ethernet connection to create a singular 1.2-megawatt system split across the two transformers onsite. Each building has its own sub-board monitor which links directly with the main switchboard monitor. This allows the college to monitor each individual building as well as the overall system.
In a first for an Australian school, Goodhew installed the latest Power Amigo technology including an advanced monitoring and logging system. The use of Power Amigo, together with the integrated Fronius Solar Web applications provide a great educational tool for students to learn about solar energy and sustainability at the grass roots level in their own school.
A key challenge that faced this project was system security. To ensure that Sheldon College retain control over their new installation, secure network-protected ethernet across the school and installed industry-leading firewalls.
The centrepiece for this installation is the Sheldon College logo in solar panel form, on the roof of the Stadium building. This was also a design challenge to ensure that it looked aesthetically pleasing without any exposed rails, conduits or cable trays.
Post installation, the school can run almost for free during the peak energy consumption of hours 9am and 1pm, with substantial savings either side of the peak. By reducing the school’s reliance on the grid, approximately 1 ton of greenhouse gas emissions per 1100kWh is saved. In one day, when the system runs at full capacity, it saves 5 tons of emissions from being released into the atmosphere. The Return on Investment has been substantial and is expected to achieve an annualised rate of 20% over 10 years.
The project has been so successful that the college is investigating its expansion through the addition of large-scale battery storage with the aim of reaching net-zero in coming years.
This project is a beacon of hope for a renewable future and is a great role model for schools across the country who are looking to reduce their footprint and increase energy efficiency.