Sustainable energy programme
A programme to improve the sustainability of the school’s energy use began in 1995. So far, the following actions have been undertaken:
- In 1995 traditional light bulbs were replaced with compact fluorescents (CFLs)
- A recycling drive was undertaken
- Cavity wall insulation was installed
- In 1998 a 50 kW wind turbine was installed, which generates about 50 MWh of electricity per year (see below for further details)
- In 2003 the old oil boiler was replaced with an automated wood-pellet boiler, which burns pellets produced locally from recycled waste wood
_ - Suspended ceilings in classrooms were replaced and more efficient lighting was installed
- In 2005 a photovoltaic (PV) array was installed on a south-facing roof including a safety rail and stairs to allow access for visitors
- A solar thermal system was installed for water heating
The "Energy Team" with the solar PV array
The Durham County Council Renewable Energy Strategy (January 1995) identified twenty four sites where wind energy could be used to supply electricity. The strategy recommended that "the County Council determine feasibility of a demonstration wind turbine at a school or suitable Durham County Council building and if feasible, install it."
Cover for the renewable energy strategy
_ Cassop Primary School was chosen because of its ideal situation and conditions.
The turbine was erected in February 1999 as a joint partnership between Durham County Council and Northern Electric, an energy supplier. The 50 kW wind turbine generates about 50 MWh of electricity per year. Overall, this meets the electricity demand of the school, although much of the output is generated out of school hours and is therefore exported to the grid. The control panel for the wind turbine includes a visual indication panel, which is housed in the school reception.
Students with the wind turbine
The control panel for the wind turbine in the school reception
Sustainable energy and environmental education
Cassop Primary School has integrated education on sustainable energy use and environmental care into their curriculum, with a broader focus on social responsibility. The school uses their renewable energy technologies as educational tools. An interactive display in a corridor shows where the current energy demand lies and how it is being supplied, and Year 6 pupils can confidently explain what is happening. This display was started when the wind turbine was installed, and pupils monitor readings from the wind turbine and keep the display up-to-date. Maths is taught using energy data from the wind turbine, and sustainable energy posters are designed in art.
This focus on education for sustainability extends beyond the school’s boundary. About six other schools visit Cassop School each term to take part in energy and environmental activities, which use classroom demonstration equipment as well as the full-scale renewable energy systems. Cassop also has links with schools in other European countries and in Kenya, which focus on energy and the environment, and exchange visits have been made.
Pupils give confident presentations and tours to visitors, and have also given external talks, including one to a full session of the County Council. Politicians have been questioned both at home and in Europe, as part of an international project. Children also wrote, produced and performed a theatrical lecture on climate change, which toured to Newcastle and London.
A Sustainability Committee (Green Team) made up of students meets at least once each term to monitor energy use and display this to check systems and to offer suggestions (e.g. water saving taps).
The environmental education programme
The environmental education programme incorporates the topics of renewable/sustainable energy, waste and recycling, and ecology. The focus is on practical, hands-on experiences, and includes children seeing and touching solar thermal panels, making and testing tiny solar PV cells and small turbines, and undertaking field trips to the local landfill site and nature reserves.
Visiting children make and test small turbines in a wind tunnel
_ The programme aims to:
- Allow groups of all ages to become more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about environmental issues
- Make the connections between the quality of the environment and people’s actions (i.e. to understand sustainability)
- Provide the opportunity to introduce global issues in a responsible and constructive way (i.e. with some potential solutions!)
- Give children a chance to work and learn through first-hand experiences
- Provide opportunities for other groups to make use of facilities the school has developed
- Provide the school with the potential to reach and educate more people
- Influence the immediate community and decision makers at all levels