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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Dubai schools sign up for rooftop solar project

First panels to be installed in about 10 schools early next year

Pupils from Dubai's Jumeirah Baccalaureate School visit a solar installation on the roof of Al Fahidi Souk in Dubai. More than 40 schools and universities have been assessed by Dubai Schools Project to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels on their respective campuses. Silvia Razgova / The National
Pupils from Dubai's Jumeirah Baccalaureate School visit a solar installation on the roof of Al Fahidi Souk in Dubai. More than 40 schools and universities have been assessed by Dubai Schools Project to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels on their respective campuses. Silvia Razgova / The National

One-hundred solar-powered private schools and universities in Dubai by 2020. That is the target the Dubai Solar Schools project has set for itself.

The project was created by the ArchItaly Green Energy company and launched in partnership with the Green Energy Business Council and the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding last year.

To date, more than 40 schools and universities have been assessed by Dubai Schools Project to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels on their respective campuses.

By early next year, the first 10 schools are expected to have their new solar panels installed - free of charge - saving each school up to 20 per cent in their energy costs, said David Provenzani, managing director of the ArchItaly Green Energy DMCC.

“Traditionally, the barrier that everybody finds in solar energy is initial investment,” said Mr Provenzani, noting the installation can cost at least Dh2 million for a 500 kilowatt project.

“So Dubai Solar Schools initiative helps, particularly the educational sector, to have a financial bridge in order to install solar panels at a zero cost and receiving electricity cheaper than the current grid rate.”

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The DSP will pay the full cost of installing the solar panels, connecting them to the grid and maintaining the equipment for a period of 20 years. In return for getting these free services and equipment, the schools agree to pay their solar energy bills to Arch Italy for the duration of the contract. Once the contract expires, the schools take ownership of the equipment and maintenance.

As an added incentive, the DSP also said it will build a “solar lab” in each participating school that passes the initial assessment and receives approvals from the Government to proceed with the project.

“The solar lab is connected to a monitoring system in a room that we can install in the school with laptops so that pupils and teachers can see in real time how much carbon footprint the school is saving, how much electricity has been produced, how much their bill is reduced,” said Mr Provenzani.

The more space a school can dedicate to solar panels, the more they stand to save in energy costs.

“We can say that as a general average we have 500 kilowatts solar power for each school that we can install on average,” said Mr Provenzani.

A school with 500 kilowatts of power – generated from about 2,000 solar panels, usually installed on rooftops or carports - can reduce its carbon footprint by 40 to 60 per cent, he said.

“And in terms of monetary benefits, we will save approximately Dh2 to Dh3 million dirhams over the next 20 years per school,” said Mr Provenzani, noting that the savings would break down to about Dh150,000 to Dh200,000 annually per school.

“The technology now is reliable,” said Mr Provenzani. “It can reduce their bills and it can give the best practical example to the kids that it is possible to imagine a different future and it’s possible to imagine a city that is solar powered instead of powered by fossil fuels.”

To help raise awareness of their schools project, ArchItaly and its partners, including the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, held a contest called Dubai Vision to encourage pupils to imagine the future of Dubai. More than 30 schools participated in the competition, which challenged pupils to build a model of what the Dubai of the future may look like using recycled material, write stories about the emirate’s green future or come up with a clever plan to make it more environmentally-friendly.

Three winning schools – Our Own High School Al Warqaa, New Indian Model School and Bud’s Public School – were each award Dh40,000 in prize money for their entries.

“We felt this is something that’s going to touch the schools,” said Abdullah Al Serkal, director of the SMCCU. “That helps the new generation comply with the vision of Dubai. It is about getting this idea to the community because you have to start with the school.”