Thu 12 May 2011
Alistair McGowan, impressionist, environmentalist and solar power advocate, today joined the ‘We Support Solar’ campaign in calling on the UK Government to commit to solar power as part of the country’s renewable energy future. Earlier this week it was reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Renewable energy, particularly solar, could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades, but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power. He joined children at Hinchley Wood School in Surrey, a top ‘Green Flag’ school, with one of the countries largest solar pv installations, to congratulate them on leading the way for other schools and stress the importance of using large roofs such as sports halls to generate much needed clean power.
Generating electricity at home with solar power, McGowan, and campaign group ‘We Support Solar’, argue the Government is failing to commit to the level of solar power needed in the UK by proposing to reduce the ‘Feed-in tariff’, payment for clean electricity, for solar on mid to large roofs.
We Support Solar is concerned that the Government is proposing to slash ‘Feed-in tariffs’ for solar installations on schools and community buildings. They want an increase in ambition for solar power in the UK, matching other big EU economies. McGowan and We Support Solar are calling on the Government to encourage schools and communities to keep installing solar pv.
In an impassioned and entertaining speech at Hinchley Wood’s assembly McGowan said: “If we all embraced exciting solar PV technology, as you have done, we could create a world in which old, wasteful, dirty sources of energy creation are almost totally redundant. But this country isn’t yet embracing solar power because of changes in the system which means that so-called ‘large-scale’ projects, such as yours, are not being encouraged. Schools and hospitals are great places for solar: they can reduce bills, freeing up funds for local authorities to use elsewhere, and even raise an income for themselves - while benefitting the health and future of the world. To make a real difference in the fight against climate change, the 29,000 school buildings across the country should be given another job to do - like yours.”
Steve Poole Headteacher at Hinchley Wood School said: “Hinchley Wood aims to be a sustainable school and renewable energy, using solar panels, is one of the reasons why we achieved Green Flag status. It is the responsible thing to do, saves us considerable money and sets an example for the whole school community. School buildings are an ideal location for solar panels and we think every school should consider this option; particularly as it is no longer necessary to finance it yourself with organisations like Solarcentury and Triodos Bank working together. What else was our sports hall roof going to be used for? Hinchley Wood supports solar, and believes schools should have solar power just like ours – using as much roof space as is practicable.”
Alistair McGowan added: “I’m backing ‘We Support Solar’ because we need solar power in this country. I generate my electricity with solar so I know its fantastic stuff. If we had solar on all of our south facing roofs we could meet a third of our electricity needs. No wonder it’s the fastest growing electricity generating technology in the world. But the UK Government threatens to turn it into an endangered species because it refuses to think big on solar for our buildings and communities, we should use large roof spaces for solar before we live to regret restricting solar power to small roofs. Solar’s no joke, its time for the Government to think big, raise its solar ambition and keep a strong Feed-in tariff.”
Hinchley Wood School, in Surrey, is a “Green Flag” ambassador school that has achieved a 20% reduction in energy use over two years and has just installed their second solar power system. Their new 67kWp solar power system will generate 58,000 kWh of electricity a year; saving the school £4,500 in electricity bills every year. They will save 29 tonnes of C02 emissions each year from the new system.
The school went solar thanks to a new partnership between Solarcentury’s ‘Solar4Schools’ programme and Triodos Bank. The ethical bank owns the solar photovoltaics, with the school paying a fraction of the cost of the system, £2,500 as opposed to £186,000, to benefit from free electricity during the day. This is made possible by a guaranteed price for renewably generated electricity, under the Government’s ‘Feed-in tariff’ scheme. The Government is currently proposing that incentives for solar are restricted to 50kWp and below, limiting the role of large roofs in generating clean electricity.