Off-grid School Australia's First to Run 100% on Solar, Battery Storage

A new-build school in the northern coastal suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, has become the first in Australia to be powered 100 per cent by rooftop solar and battery storage.

Atlantis Beach Baptist College in Two Rocks – which opened for business in February 2017 – sources all of its power, 24/7, through 20kW of rooftop PV and 30kWh of battery storage. Solar heat pumps are used for hot water.

The off-grid school initially chose to operate on diesel fuel generators, because the cost of connecting to the grid in early 2017 – around $250,000, according to the school’s principal – was ruled out as economically unfeasible.

The switch to solar – which was completed this month – was coordinated by Sydney-based company Upstream Energy, allowing the College to switch to solar and storage for no up-front cost.

To pay for the system, ABBC buys the solar power at a fixed rate from Upstream each month, just as it would do for grid power, with an electricity retailer.

Upstream says the solar and storage system – currently quite small – will grow in line with the campus, as more students enrol and more buildings are built. Upgrades will also come at nil capital cost.

At this stage, the school caters to students from pre-kindergarten to Year 10.

“The annual energy consumption of the campus is approximately 25,000kWh and the new solar and storage system will deliver up to 32,390kWh of sustainable energy at a substantially lower cost than what it would cost … to procure a grid connection,” Upstream Energy managing director Nathan Begley told the North Coast Times.

Begley said the college would ultimately become outright owner of the solar and storage asset, when the power purchase agreement expired, while also having the right to exit the PPA at any time by buying out the equipment.

The school has also kept its existing diesel generators, to use in case of back-up, if the solar and storage falls short. Although Begley suggests such an occasion should be rare.

“If a bit of cloud comes over, we don’t have to switch to the generators,” he said.

“This has been keeping the school running overnight – it keeps the servers running. It’s really exciting to get behind a project like this, particularly a landmark project.”

“The new solar power system is environmentally friendly and will deliver major cost savings for our college which we can use to invest in additional educations facilities for our students over the coming years,” said ABBC principal Principal Gary Harris.

“Our solar/battery solution also allows for a number of educational opportunities for students in a growing area of technology that will lead to many different career pathways in the future.”

Source: one step off the grid
Date: Oct 29, 2018