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Sunseekers ... Maheno School Year 2 pupils (from left) Lucy Beckingsale, Jimmy McNally and Owen Anderson tend to the vegetable garden with their Enviroschools teacher Stella Macrae. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

The sky is the sustainability limit for Maheno School after it was granted $49,000 to install solar panels on its roof.

Maheno School is the first to be featured in a new Oamaru Mail series, showcasing what Enviroschools are getting up to around the district.

Principal Ryan Fraser said the Government had a multi-million dollar sustainability fund, which was available to schools. He had always thought the Maheno School’s north-facing buildings lent themselves perfectly to solar panels, and decided to apply.

“We’re just going through the process at the moment of getting some quotes from some people, and so we’re going to get a 15kW system with some batteries as well. So it’s pretty exciting,” Mr Fraser said.

“We won’t be completely off-grid, but it’s going to take a massive chunk out of our power bill. In summer it may cover everything and we might be able to sell back to or contribute to the grid. But in winter we won’t. That’s where all our learning’s going to come.

“It’s going to be really exciting for kids to actually look at what we’re producing, when we’re producing it and what we’re using, and when we’re using it.”

Quotes would be discussed at an upcoming board meeting and Mr Fraser said the project should be finished by the end of the year.

“We’re looking at next year doing a lot of learning around it and renewable energy. That’s when we’ll have a bit of data and info about what we do with our power at the moment, and then what our solar panels are producing.

“As a school the majority of the power we use is between 8am and 3.30pm, and that’s when the sun’s up. So that’s why it’s such a great thing to have for a school. And then the batteries, hopefully will charge up and we’ll be able to utilise those over the night when we’ve got minimal things running.

“The kids are pretty stoked about it, because of all the Enviroschool stuff that we’re doing,” he said.

“We have Enviroschools every week. Teacher Stella Macrae runs that and we have parents coming in to help out.

“We have three groups running – one group’s usually in the garden, one group’s in the kitchen – cooking and creating something from produce that we’ve grown. And they feed the school essentially on a Friday lunchtime, if there’s enough. It’s really cool.”

The third group talked about Enviroschools sustainability goals, and the groups all rotated around, Mr Fraser said.

The initiative is school-wide with everyone from new entrants to year 8 pupils contributing.

Input from the wider Maheno community was also an integral part of the Enviroschool’s success, Mr Fraser said.

“We get compost and things from other families – sawdust to put around the orchard – so it’s a real community thing.”