I like the idea of the Dynamis Project, how can I help?

You can donate money toward the next school which is raising funds or start the process with your own local school. If you want to donate time, I have listed below an ever-increasing list of things to do. (See the To Do List page). The best way to contact me is via email as I run a video production company and work some long and unusual hours: Mike Rathbone mike@dynamisproject.co.nz

If we are looking at solar, what do we need to consider?

The amount of electricity produced by your school's solar power system depends on many factors including:

  • The location of your school (latitude, longitude)? This determines the amount of solar radiation available
  • Any shade present? Shade can reduce the effectiveness of your system
  • Panels should face north for maximum performance, but North East or North West still works
  • The ideal angle for panels to tilt towards the sun is around 25 degrees, if your roof is too flat, tilt frames would be used.
  • Match the size of your inverter to your system. For example, two 5kW inverters should be used for 10 kW of PV panels. If you are considering more panels at a later stage, buy a bigger inverter in the first place. A small school should have at least 10 kW.
  • Keep your panels clean, mild detergent and warm water at least every six months.
  • There will be losses between the panels and your meter. The efficiency of the inverter, voltage drop along the cables etc.
  • Having solar, wind or water powers generation capabilities is just the start. Your school should work to reduce power consumption right through the school. You need to train both your teachers and pupils!

What are the main components in a solar (PV) setup?

  1. Panels. These panels (often 250 watts each so four would generate up to 1 kWh) measure approximately 1640 x 992 x 40mm and are bolted to brackets which are screwed into the roof joists. In most cases the panels will be made in China and carry a 25 year warranty. (Panels are guaranteed to still generate 80% capacity after 25 years).
  2. The inverter. These electronic units convert the power from the panels which is DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) which matches the power supply from the main grid. Usually mounted to an inside wall out of the weather.
  3. Brackets and tilt frames. The brackets are usually made of anodised aluminium and if the roof pitch is too flat, tilt frames are used to bring the panels to the required angle.
  4. Installation. Attaching the bolts to the roof, mounting the panels, running the wiring through the roof down to the inverters, electrical permits, council permissions, import/export meter etc.

All this is usually provided by the installation company.

What are the most important things I need to think about when setting up my school?

  1. You must have complete support from the Principal, your teachers, Board of Trustees and your Friends of the School.
  2. Raising the funds won't be easy. The school must work hard to reduce their subsequent power bills, once the system is in place. I found the best tool for finding who provides grants is GivUs. See Funding.

When our school is closed over the summer holidays, will we actually export power?

Yes! Your power company will pay you for the excess you generate (but it may not be much!)

What is the Ministry of Education's opinion about generating savings and sustainability?

The MoE's current position about Heat, Light and Water is documented on their website at: education.govt.nz Energy FAQs

Summarised it says:

Energy costs at schools are provided for in the Heat, Light and Water (HLW) component of operation funding. In 2010, each school's HLW funding was fixed at a level based on an average of the last three years' energy costs. The funding is indexed to inflation. This means there is now an incentive for schools to be energy efficient and a financial advantage for schools that can reduce their energy use and costs. Any savings do not have to be returned to the Ministry and can be used for other operational expenses and ideally, be re-invested in further energy-reduction initiatives.

Can we get an independent company to provide energy monitoring systems?

Yes you can, but you will pay for it! Initially, it is easy enough for someone in the school to monitor your own use. Look at the “Are you energy efficient?" Checklist. For example, many schools use unnecessary power during the evenings, weekends and school holidays. Finding those “leakages” can reduce power bills by up to 40%. Remember any company that charges you per kW will be reducing their profit if you lower your consumption!
Schools can get power companies to bid for the best deal through an organisation called Switchme. Even better, this service is free! Go to a website called www.switchme.co.nz for getting quotes from local power providers. You enter your location, meter number (ICP), details of your latest power bill and they reply with the best deal for you. It is always a good idea to then go back to your existing supplier and ask for a better deal, as it costs them a lot more to get a customer back! A new power provider called Ecotricity has entered the scene. Well worth a quote from them. The cheapest I have found so far, and they care about the environment! www.ecotricity.co.nz .