TOWNSVILLE Catholic Education has signed up for a Tesla battery storage project on the way to having its schools powered 100 per cent from renewable sources.
The agency recently accepted a tender from Queensland-based commercial solar business GEM Energy to deliver the project over the next 10 years.
TCE executive director Jacqui Francis said this was a third stage of works committed by TCE to introduce renewable energies into schools.
“The first two stages saw up to 100kW of solar panels installed at schools across the Townsville diocese,” Ms Francis said.
“Stage three is a significant increase in solar panels installed on school roofs combined with the Townsville diocese’s first large-scale investment in battery storage.”
This reflects a strong commitment to responding in practical ways to the call of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).
The announcement of TCE’s new energy project comes at a time when the Church is celebrating a Special Anniversary Year of Laudato Si’.
“In practical terms this project will result in a large-scale reduction of energy bills via the generation of a significant portion of school energy needs from onsite renewable sources,” Ms Francis said.
“The project will see a significant reduction in grid-sourced energy, reducing TCE’s reliance on non-renewable sources.
“TCE is also investigating purchasing grid-sourced energy from renewable sources, meaning the energy needs of Townsville Catholic diocesan schools are sourced 100 per cent from renewable sources.”
Apart from the environmental benefits, Ms Francis said “the long-term advantages of the project will benefit the schools in terms of reduced electricity costs and the ability to reinvest this money into other school-based resources”.
TCE director of Learning and Teaching Peter Stower said the rolling out of the solar energy projects had “allowed for the inclusion of practical real-life examples of renewable energy generation to be included in students’ curriculum”.
“Students in schools are learning about our collective responsibility to care for our Earth and, through the sustainable solar projects, that the decisions we make today will have an impact on the future,” Mr Stower said.
It was an awareness that flowed into other areas.
“The call to conversion from Laudato Si’ is reaching the hearts of the students in our schools across the diocese,” Mr Stower said.
“Students are initiating projects, with the support of their teachers, to engage the whole school community to come together to make a difference.
“Projects such as recycling paper and cardboard, ink cartridges and old mobile phones, planting trees around the school, and reducing waste from school lunches have been some of these projects being led by students.
“Our students learn through these daily practices that it is the simple daily gestures that can make a difference and everyone has an important role to play in caring for creation.”
St Joseph’s Catholic School, on The Strand, in Townsville, is one of the many schools across the diocese where the Laudato Si’ spirit is catching on.
Principal Tim Ham said the aim was for schools in Townsville diocese to provide as much solar power as they possibly could, based on available sites, and then to be storing that energy through battery technology as well on some sites.
“We (St Joseph’s) are certainly part of that project and the hope is that we’re looking to save somewhere around $20,000 to $30,000 a year based on the predictions from GEM Solar,” Mr Ham said.
“So it means significant savings for our Catholic schools and it’s great, obviously, also for our environment.”
Living Laudato Si’ has been a priority for TCE for many years, and Mr Ham said schools were encouraged each year to submit reports “about the work that we’ve been doing at our school around Laudato Si’ and around recycling and energy conservation and maintaining gardens and green spaces and those sorts of things”.
“We also have an Eco Warriors day for students across the diocese where they get together and talk about that sort of thing and focus on how we can make our schools and our homes more environmentally friendly and reflect those values of Laudato Si’,” he said.
“We’ve got lots of focus across the diocese for kids to do that but also throughout the year just at a school level.
“We’ve got chickens (at our school); we use our scraps, we feed the tuckshop scraps to our chickens; we recycle every day; we’ve got recycling services in the school, and bins, and students who are committed to that,” he said.
“I think our kids are generally becoming more committed to understanding the need for that in our world.
“I’d like to think that that’s coming from our school as well as home.”