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Big job done . . . Casting an eye over Maheno School's solar panels are (from left) Sunergy Solar manager Andrew Wells, business development manager Dan Wragg and Maheno School principal Ryan Fraser. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

New solar panels at Maheno School will offer practical learning opportunities as well as financial savings, principal Ryan Fraser says.

The school applied for, and received, a $50,000 grant from the Ministry of Education to go towards reducing its environmental impact and improving its operational efficiency, and has invested the funding in new solar panels.

The school’s board of trustees also contributed $6000 to the project.

The solar panels would probably pay for themselves within 10 years, and were guaranteed to last at least 25 years, Mr Fraser said.

“With the extra money from the board of trustees, we have pretty much maximised our roof space,” he said.

“It will free up some money we can put into educational outcomes.”

The steep pitch and north-facing roofs at Maheno School were ideal for solar panels, he said.

Mr Fraser was looking forward to integrating the real-time data the panels would produce into the school curriculum.

Pupils could monitor the amount of electricity produced and used, so they could learn how to be more efficient with their power usage, Mr Fraser said.

Solar panels were effective for schools because the hours of highest power usage 8.30am to 3.30pm the hours with the most sunlight, Mr Fraser said.

The solar panels were installed this week by Sunergy Solar, which had completed similar projects for other schools in the South Island.

Sunergy Solar manager Andrew Wells said New Zealand was still behind the rest of the world when it came to the adoption of solar panels.

Australia was installing 1600 times the amount of panels New Zealand was, he said.

“New Zealand’s climate is good for solar because it isn’t too hot,” Mr Wells said.

“The panels will last longer and perform better in the 10 to 25degC days we have.

“Kids are drivers of change, and this is a long-term societal change.”

Commercially, the return on investment on solar panels annually was usually between 12 and 20%, and for schools it was normally between seven and 11%, he said.

The Ministry of Education was offering further grants, and Mr Fraser said he would recommend all schools to apply.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

“It can be a real community thing, I would love to see some of our families and whanau get into it.”