Microsoft and SSE Airtricity to bring solar panels to Irish schools

28 Sep 2020

Installation of solar panels on a school roof. Image: Microsoft

Internet-connected solar panels at 27 primary and secondary schools in Ireland will help enable ‘sustainable practices inside and outside the school gate’.

Today (28 September), Microsoft and SSE Airtricity announced a partnership to involve Irish schools in a bid to save energy and reduce the country’s carbon footprint. The companies said that internet-connected rooftop solar panels will be installed at 27 schools across the country, helping to generate enough electricity for 68 homes for a full year.

Schools will be able power classrooms using energy generated from their own roofs, helping them to reduce their carbon footprint and their costs. Microsoft and SSE Airtricity are investing almost €1m in the project.

By installing and managing the panels in primary and secondary schools in Leinster, Munster and Connaught, they expect to offset 2.1m kg of CO2 emissions over the next 15 years. The panels will be connected to cloud platform Microsoft Azure through Azure IoT, with software that can aggregate and analyse real-time data on energy generated.

Microsoft Ireland’s managing director, Cathriona Hallahan, said the company’s investment is being made through the Microsoft Sustainability Fund. “Not only will 27 schools now power their classrooms using energy generated from their own rooftops, reducing their carbon footprint and costs, we will also look to prove the viability of distributed energy generation,” she added.

“Collectively, we can take a step in the right direction and harness the power of innovative technology to help generate renewable energy and go some way towards offsetting carbon emissions. Through the installation of solar panels and the new data-driven insights from Microsoft’s Azure cloud, we look forward to enabling sustainable practices inside and outside the school gate”.

A ‘decarbonisation journey’

SSE Airtricity managing director Klair Neenan said she is looking forward to supporting the schools “on their decarbonisation journey”.

“This new collaborative project will allow students throughout Ireland to see first-hand how sustainability and renewable energy can combine to help fight the climate emergency, while also benefitting their school and community on a daily basis,” she explained.

Digital screens will also be set up in each school so that pupils can visualise the energy generated and how it impacts their environment. They will also complete an interactive three-part learning programme on the climate emergency and the role technology can play.

One of the schools recently fitted with the rooftop panels is Kinsale Community School in Co Cork. Its principal, Fergal McCarthy, said that the project will reduce costs and educate students “about the positive impact that innovative technology is having” on the school and the wider Kinsale community.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021