£2m ‘solar-powered classroom’ scheme approved at Yorkshire junior school

Plans have been approved for a primary school to become the first in the Wakefield district to benefit from a £2m solar-powered classrooms scheme.

Permission has been granted to install 176 panels on the roof of Ackworth Howard Junior and Infant School. The school is one of six Wakefield Council-maintained schools chosen to take part in a green energy partnership.

The council signed up to the Solar for Schools (SfS) project in July last year as part of its ambition to become a carbon neutral authority. It is hoped the project could lead to an annual reduction of 456 tonnes of greenhouse gas.

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The school dates back to 1833 and has two classrooms listed as buildings of local interest (BLI) to recognise their architectural features. Panels will not be installed on the BLI buildings after concerns were raised over the impact on local heritage. Panels will instead be positioned on “less historically significant buildings” within the school site.

Ackworth Howard Junior and Infant School, AckworthAckworth Howard Junior and Infant School, Ackworth
Ackworth Howard Junior and Infant School, Ackworth

A report says: “Such sustainable energy sources can deliver high public benefits. The conservation officer is of the position that the harm is outweighed by the clear public benefits the scheme delivers.”

A planning statement submitted to the local authority says the scheme will help create “responsible citizens for tomorrow’s world”.

The document adds: “It is considered that the proposed solar panels would be complementary to the character of the school, depicting a sustainable and green future that the school wants to adopt. The panels enable the school to further improve its decarbonisation journey, teaching and learning how to live more sustainably.”

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The document says that some of the panels will be visible from nearby homes but will have an “anti-glare” coating.

The statement adds: “The possibility of impact towards the residing neighbouring and adjacent land users from the proposed installation would be minuscule.”

Five other primary schools in the district have been chosen to take part in a pilot project from a short-list of 22; Featherstone Purston St Thomas’, Hendal Primary, Moorthorpe Primary, Carlton Junior and Infant School and Upton Primary.

The project involves SfS, a not-for-profit organisation, investing £2m if all 22 schools take part. It would retain the rights to sell any surplus electricity to the national grid. It is hoped more of the 140 local authority-maintained schools in the district will become involved over the next two years.

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The council has set itself a target of becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030. Installation of solar panels on school roofs or land would enable a direct feed of renewable electricity. The council became involved in the project following a recommendation from West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

SfS have worked with a number of schools and local authorities, including neighbouring Leeds City Council.

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