Partner Content

SSE Airtricity and Microsoft collaborate for the Schools Sustainability Project competition

By Business & Finance
05 May 2023
Pictured: Fergal Ahern, Head of Business Development, SSE Airtricity, and pupils of Kinsale Community School.

Solar Green Energy Partnership

The Schools Sustainability Project competition is the most recent project SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland have partnered on as part of their Solar for Schools programme. Launched in 2020, the renewable energy programme enables schools to power classrooms using energy generated from their own roof, helping them to reduce their carbon footprint, and their energy costs.

With an investment of close to €1,000,000, the partnership helped to install and manage internet-connected solar panels in 29 primary and post-primary schools, which are connected via Azure IoT to Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform. The panels installed across all 29 locations have the combined power to generate enough electricity for 68 Irish homes for a full year.

A key objective of the partnership was to show students first-hand how they can play a part in combatting climate change. Digital screens were installed as part of the partnership to show the school’s energy use in real time, allowing students to see the impact of the energy efficiency upgrades and helping them and the wider school community to better understand their consumption and how they can become more energy efficient, while also further reducing their emissions.

Solar Schools Education Programme

Following the initial installation, SSE Airtricity and Microsoft Ireland committed to the delivery of an education program to primary and post-primary schools involved in the project. It was from this commitment that the Schools Sustainability Project competition was born.

As part of the Schools Sustainability Project, schools from Connacht, Munster, and Leinster took part in a three-module course on renewable energy, sustainability, biodiversity, technology and innovation. Following these modules, project submissions were made demonstrating the efforts of the schools to improve the environment.

St Augustine National School

Winning primary school, St Augustine National School Clontuskert in Ballinasloe, Galway, undertook a series of activities to help improve the environment including installing a bug hotel to increase biodiversity; installing an environmentally friendly sewage treatment plant; successfully petitioning to change waste management symbols in Ireland and being the first school in Ireland to receive the Climate Action School of Excellence Award.

Kinsale Community School

Students from the winning post-primary, Kinsale Community School, undertook a Save the Bees initiative, planting a biodiversity orchard and a hedge row in their school to provide food for bees and other pollinators, and fruit for birds. They also provide local organic food for the school’s Home Economics department and raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the climate crisis.

Awards for the winning schools 

Sustainability grants worth €2,500 were awarded to each school from Microsoft Ireland, with each participating student also receiving a computer Tablet worth €100 from the SSE Airtricity eStore.

Speaking following the prize giving, Fergal Ahern, Head of Business Development, SSE Airtricity said: “Providing renewable energy solutions is in our DNA at SSE Airtricity, and we are delighted to partner with Microsoft Ireland on this educational schools’ competition that engages primary and post-primary students and gets them thinking about the impact they can make on the environment and help to deliver and develop sustainable options.

“The pupils of St Augustine N.S. Clontuskert and Kinsale Community School have demonstrated great intent and passion for sustainability, showing us first-hand how sustainability and renewable energy can combine to help fight climate change while also benefitting their school and community on a daily basis.”

Richard Ryan, Datacentre Community Development Programme Manager, Microsoft Ireland also addressed the winning students: “Microsoft Ireland was delighted to partner with SSE Airtricity to roll out the Solar for Schools Programme in late 2020. Part of this programme was focused on educating the students about the impact the technology could have on creating a more sustainable future for their schools. With that in mind we were delighted to extend the engagement with the schools through this competition and it’s been inspiring to see the way the teachers and students have embraced and engaged in the process. I’d like to congratulate all the schools who participated in the competition, but particularly acknowledge the integrated approach taken by the winners to involve the wider school community.”

Read more: 

SSE Airtricity: Here comes the sun – how Belfast’s premier concert venue harnessed rooftop rays