About Solar Schools

The Solar Schools project is putting clean energy in classrooms all over the country. Schools set a fundraising target for their very own solar roof, then everyone chips in to help make it happen.

It's a chance for pupils, parents, local businesses, former students and everyone else to do something good for their school, their community, and the whole world.

Solar Schools is run by 10:10, a charity that brings people together to help tackle climate change. Find out more about 10:10 and the other projects that we run.

FAQ

Basics

How does Solar Schools work?

There are a number of options out there that look to help schools overcome financial barriers to renewable energy and become cleaner, greener places for pupils to learn. The most common of these are so called 'rent-a-roof' schemes where a third party effectively rents space on a school roof to install panels that they own - allowing the school to enjoy cheap energy, while the panel owner keeps the feed-in tariff.

While these can be a great option for lots of schools, especially those with a very large roof, we (and the many schools we’ve worked with!) feel they miss an opportunity to use the excitement of a solar installation to leverage a whole range of other benefits. By providing schools with the tools, training and support they need to crowdfund the cost of panels, not only do we help schools keep all of the financial benefits (and avoid any long term contracts), but the fundraising itself creates an incredible opportunity. The schools and their pupils on our project build networks, develop new skills and give each and every member of their community the opportunity to feel a sense of ownership over a clean energy project.

How much do participating schools have to raise?

We advise participating schools to raise a minimum of £8,000 to install a solar system. However, we hope and expect many schools will be able to raise £10,000 and some as much as £30,000. There is no fixed upper limit. One of the reasons we chose to focus on solar PV is because its modular nature allows fundraising targets to be adapted to suit each individual school. Participating schools select a target based on their roof capacity and level of ambition!

How do schools win the extra solar?

All schools selected for the project receive a year-long package of resources, training and support to enable them to crowdfund the cost of solar.

In 2014-15, thanks to our partner Good Energy, once the fundraising begins, details of a filmmaking competition will be revealed with prizes of £5,000, £3,000 and £1,000 worth of solar panels available for three of the participating schools.

The prizes will only be available to the schools on the project.

How do you know this approach works?

Solar Schools and the schools taking part are testament to what can be achieved. Together, they've raised over £400,000 in the last three years, been celebrated in parliament and won awards for their efforts! But what really matters is the feedback from the schools themselves - 87% of volunteers on the project consider it to have been a positive experience for their whole school, 73% said they felt closer to their community as a result and 100% said they felt more skilled or confident thanks to the training and support they received through Solar Schools.

Take a look at one school's inspiring story to get a flavour of what makes this project so special.

"Taking part in Solar Schools was an incredible opportunity for our school, and an experience that will benefit us for years to come. Not only are we now enjoying the great financial and environmental benefits of solar panels, but our pupils, staff and parents got a huge amount out of the fundraising process itself. I'd love to see more schools getting involved!" Sue Jepson, deputy head and Solar Schools volunteer
"[Solar Schools] has been a turning point." Sarah Sharrock, governor and Solar Schools volunteer

Who runs the Solar Schools project?

Solar Schools is run by 10:10, a climate change campaign that offers positive, practical ways to cut carbon at home, at work and in your local area. We’ve worked with a brilliant set of partners to make the project happen over the last three years including MumsnetLushNESTAthe Tudor trust, the ERANDA Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Bertha Foundation.

Thanks to the support of our partner, Good Energy, in 2014-15 we’re able to offer schools the full Solar Schools toolkit completely free of charge.

Becoming a Solar School

How does a school become a Solar School?

Solar Schools provides teams of staff, pupils and parents with the training, support and tools they need to crowdfund the cost of solar panels – cutting carbon, boosting budgets and building stronger, cleaner, communities with local schools and pupils right at their heart.

Thanks to our partner Good Energy, we're able to provide all of this to participating schools completely free, but we can only support a limited number.

Taking part in Solar Schools is a big commitment for the team involved, To help make sure it’s the right project at the right time for each school, we ask prospective participants to provide bits of information as part of an application for one of the spots up for grabs.

Sadly, applications for Solar Schools are currently closed. If you'd like to be the first to know if we open them again, email us to register interest on hello@solarschools.org.uk.

Who can apply on behalf of a school?

We accept applications from anyone willing to lead the Solar Schools effort on behalf of a school. But, in order to be accepted onto the project, we ask for evidence that all of the key stakeholders at that school (headteacher, governors, building owner, local authority or equivalent, PTA where appropriate) are supportive of the application and the person making that application.

Sadly, applications for Solar Schools are currently closed. If you'd like to be the first to know if we open them again, email us to register interest on hello@solarschools.org.uk.

How do I know if my school would be suitable for the Solar Schools project?

The most important thing we need is enthusiasm – you don't need to be a solar expert or a fundraising veteran to take part! The majority of schools in the UK can support at least a small solar rig, but, as part of an application, we ask schools to have a basic building survey done by a solar installer (they will do this for free as part of their marketing). This should flag up barriers and also give a sense of the potential capacity of a roof.

Beyond that, Solar Schools is at its best when the whole school gets behind it. As part of an application, we ask schools to form a team of volunteers to run the project (staff, parents, governors, pupils, community members - anyone with a passion for the school and what they want to achieve) and demonstrate that they have the support and backing of all the key people at the school: headteacher, governors, building owner, local authority or equivalent, and PTA where appropriate. We have an online application process which guides schools through all of this.

We try to work with a whole variety of schools of different size, type and location.

Sadly, applications for Solar Schools are currently closed. If you'd like to be the first to know if we open them again, email us to register interest on hello@solarschools.org.uk.

What is involved in applying?

We try to make sure that Solar Schools is the right project for each school taking part. So, we've designed our application process to make sure that all the building blocks needed for a successful project are in place. We don't want anyone to invest time and energy unless we are confident we can help them to succeed!

To complete an application, we ask schools to provide evidence that they have each of the following three things:

  1. The support of all the key people at the school – we provide info sheets and draft letters of support for headteachers, governors, PTAs, local authorities and/or building owners to sign.
  2. A roof suitable for solar! We talk schools through having a solar installer check out their roof (don’t worry, it’s free).
  3. A team ready and willing to work on the project.

Sadly, applications for Solar Schools are currently closed. If you'd like to be the first to know if we open them again, email us to register interest on hello@solarschools.org.uk.

Do schools pay to take part?

We want Solar Schools to be open to all schools, that’s why we (10:10) fundraise to cover the costs of running the project and provide the website and tools free of charge.

In 2014-15, thanks to the support of Good Energy, we are able support a limited number of schools with our tried and tested package of resources and support.

What resources do participants get from Solar Schools HQ?

We provide the resources, training and support that participants need to fundraise for solar panels - reaching out beyond the school gates to involve their whole community. Each school taking part receives:

  • Their own page on the Solar Schools website. The webpage makes it easy for family, friends and businesses to donate in a simple and engaging way. Through the admin area, teams at each school can tell their story, communicate with past and future donors, and fundraise online like pros.
  • Banners, posters and stickers to help schools spread the word locally.
  • Training at regional induction sessions.
  • Ongoing support from Solar Schools staff providing individual and group assistance through newsletters, webinars and email and telephone support.
  • PR support and the publicity benefits of taking part in an exciting national project.
  • Advice and inspiration from other Solar Schools - past and present.

This year, thanks to our partner Good Energy, once the fundraising begins, details of a filmmaking competition will be revealed with prizes of £5,000, £3,000 and £1,000 worth of solar panels available for three of the participating schools.

What commitment is needed from schools taking part?

Solar Schools brings huge benefits to a school and their community. But, as with anything - you get out what you put in! We advise each school taking part to form a team of 3-6 individuals to drive the fundraising, ideally a mix of staff and volunteers, supported by students. Having a PTA or ’Friends of’ on board makes a big difference too. Participants on each team will be able to attend regional training sessions and liaise with us throughout the year.

10:10, the organisation behind Solar Schools, will sign a contract with each school which has been designed to provide a clear agreement between all parties involved.

How does it fit in with lessons and teaching?

Solar panels are an incredible resource for a school, churning out data that can be incorporated into a variety of subjects. But, the opportunities kick in before the panels are installed.

To successfully fundraise, a school needs to involve their whole community and we encourage our schools to put their pupils right at the heart of that effort. Solar Schools presents a unique opportunity to give young people ownership over a positive, practical project that actively tackles climate change while developing a host of other skills in the process.

We’ve seen pupils running their own fundraising events, setting up school-wide energy reduction campaigns, appearing in local media, writing and implementing communications plans and pitching to local business forums.

Sheets in the resource packs give suggestions for involving students in the journey and integrating panels into teaching, and we involve pupils in our online and offline training sessions. The best examples of student involvement are featured in our social media, blogs and email newsletters.

Solar Schools was a commended finalist in the educational initiative category at the 2013 Climate Week awards.

"Solar Schools has completely re-invigorated our students’ approach to sustainability. We’ve had pupils queuing down the corridor to get into our eco-team meets" Gary, teacher.

I’m worried we can’t raise enough money

We provide the resources, support and training that schools need to achieve incredible things. For some, that’s turbocharging existing efforts; for others it might be the first big fundraising project their school has undertaken. We encourage our teams to be ambitious but realistic and work with them to set targets that they think are achievable. Our tools and support are designed to help schools reach beyond the usual suspects and bring a new audience closer to the school - for this project and hopefully others in the future too. Schools taking part have increased their usual annual fundraising targets approximately threefold and been amazed by the results.

"I cannot believe everyone’s generosity this last week considering how badly the village was affected by recent flooding. We’ve raised nearly as much in one week as we normally raise in a year!" Trevor Caves, Headteacher

However, each school faces different challenges and we know that sometimes life (especially in a school!) can get in the way! When you’re trying to do something ambitious, there's always an element of risk. We're here to help overcome challenges and explore new avenues but, in the event that a school doesn't hit their target, or discovers for any other reason that they can't install solar, there is the potential to invest the money they have raised in other energy saving measures. This may still be solar PV, but if not, we can help that school decide how to spend their money wisely and communicate this to their supporters. In our experience, donors trust a school's judgement.

The Solar Schools project has been designed to bring lots of benefits, other than just the eventual solar installation. When a school really gets into the spirit of the project and puts the time in, we hope that even in the event of targets not being hit, they still find it a hugely rewarding process to be part of.

How do you select successful applicants?

We believe that Solar Schools can be an incredible thing for a school to take part in, and we'd love to work with every school in the UK. But sadly, places are limited. The application process is designed firstly to help schools work out if the project is the right thing for them. Beyond that, we base our selection on getting an even mix of different schools and different locations.

Sadly, applications for Solar Schools are currently closed. If you'd like to be the first to know if we open them again, email us to register interest on hello@solarschools.org.uk.

Why are there no Solar Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

At the moment, Solar Schools is only working with schools in England and Wales.

We're a little team trying to do a lot on a small budget and at the moment we don't have the capacity to support schools in Northern Ireland in the way in which we would like to (e.g. regional training sessions and visits).

In the case of Scotland, differences in the way schools, and in particular their budgets, are handled means that our model needs a bit of tweaking before we're confident it's fit for schools north of the border. We're working on it and hopefully we'll see "Solar Schools: the Scotland edition" soon!

We've been accepted on to the project! What's next?

After a school is accepted, they will be asked to sign a contract with 10:10, confirming their place on the project. Then it's time to start hatching plans!

To get started, schools need to attend one of the training sessions which we run around the country in September.

Supporting a Solar School

I'm not connected with a school. How can I help?

You don't have to be connected to a school to get involved! Here's how you can play your part:

  1. Donate to a Solar School
    Every pound you donate will help a school save money to put back into their pupils' education, while also saving carbon and providing a great learning resource. Head to the homepage to find a school to support!
  2. Then tell the world!
    We need to spread the word far and wide about the incredible things our schools are up to. We'd love you to tweet, Facebook, deploy your carrier pigeons, whatever! The best way to get speedy, shareable updates from the project is by following 10:10 on Twitter and Facebook.

What can my business / organisation do to help?

The simplest way you can help would be to encourage your organisation to sponsor a whole virtual panel (or more) for a school of your choice! On donations of £100 or more, you can personalise the virtual solar panel with your own message of support and a link to your businesses' website. Head to the homepage to find a school to support!

If you'd like to help a school another way - perhaps with an in-kind donation or an idea for a great fundraiser - then please do get in touch with them directly using the contact details on their page.

I've already donated - what else can I do?

Thank you! After donating, the best things you can do are:

  • Spread the word: Share the link on Facebook, mention us on Twitter, email your friends, bring it up at dinner - you get the idea!
  • Donate some time: From organising a cake sale to running a sponsored marathon, our schools would love your help. If you can give more than money, get in touch with a school using the contact details on their page!
  • Persuade your workplace to get involved: They could donate some money or support in other ways.

Nuts and bolts

What are feed-in tariffs?

Feed-in tariffs (Fits) are a government incentive scheme designed to encourage the installation of solar panels and other renewable energy in the UK. Anyone with a registered solar installation gets quarterly Fit payments based on the amount of energy their panels produce.

There are two rates of payment - one for energy produced and used by the school and one for any surplus that is exported to the grid. These payments are guaranteed for 20 years, providing a sustainable income for schools to spend as they please!

For example, a school raising £10,000 might install eight kilowatts of solar which, as well as saving approximately £400 a year on energy bills, would result in feed-in tariff payments totalling over £1000 a year.

You can find out more about feed-in tariffs and how they work on the government website.

Who owns the solar rig and associated income?

Because we help schools to crowdfund the cost of a solar installation, the panels and all of the benefits associated with them belong entirely to each school. We do not handle any of the money: instead, the Solar Schools website is integrated with the payment system GoCardless that transfers money directly into an account of the schools choosing. By purchasing the rig themselves, the school avoids becoming entangled in complicated long-term leasing arrangements.

Does Solar Schools install the panels or work with a solar installation company?

Solar Schools is not a solar installation company or partnered with any solar companies. Decisions around installers and technology will be made by the school in close cooperation with their local authority and/or building owner.

As with all parts of the project, our role is to provide each school with the support, resources and advice they need, in this case, to become savvy solar purchasers. Each school will need to abide by public procurement policy, and should get advice from their local authority accordingly.

Who are Good Energy and how are they involved?

Founded in response to climate change, Wiltshire-based Good Energy is a fast-growing independent energy supplier, which ensures that all the electricity it sells to customers over the course of the year, is matched 100% with electricity sourced from renewables. It is building a network of renewable electricity generation from sources such as wind, solar and small hydro and provides support for a community of more than 66,000 independent generators across the UK.

Good Energy believes that by putting customers at the heart of all it does and delivering excellent service, it provides consumers with a greener energy choice and the chance to play a part in transforming the UK's energy market. It has come top in the Which? energy company customer satisfaction survey for the last three years, and currently has around 46,000 electricity and 20,000 gas customers across the UK. In 2014-15, support from Good Energy is allowing 10:10 to offer a full resource and support package for free to participating schools. Plus, schools taking part in the Solar Schools project will get £50 each time someone they recommend switches to Good Energy!

As if that wasn't enough, once the fundraising begins, Good Energy will be revealing details of a competition with prizes of £5,000, £3,000 and £1,000 worth of solar panels available for three of the participating schools!

What if we find out we can’t install solar?

As part of your application, we ask that you have a solar installer provide a free quote for your school roof to help identify any obvious problems. However, this is by no means comprehensive and there is always a risk that further surveying, or a change in circumstances, means that installing solar is no longer possible. In this event, the contract between 10:10 and a participating school specifies that any money raised can be spent on alternative energy saving measures at that school, like LED lighting.

10:10 will help a school communicate this to their donors who, in our experience, understand that these things happen and trust a school's judgement.

We're not a school - can we get involved?

One of the things that we think is so exciting about Solar Schools is that it could be used in all sorts of different ways - for different renewable technologies and for different community centred buildings. We would love to hear your ideas. If we can demonstrate that there's a real appetite out there for other applications then we're more able to get the support we need to do it. Please get in touch - hello@solarschools.org.uk.

How do you calculate estimated costs, savings and returns?

The calculations and estimated returns we provide on this website are only designed to give an idea of the costs and returns that can be seen with solar. They should be taken as a very rough estimate. In order to do our calculations we make some assumptions.

For investments of:

  • £5,000 - £10,000 we assume an install price of £2,100/kWp
  • £10,001 - £15,000 we assume an install price of £1,570/kWp
  • £15,001 - £20,000 we assume an install price of £1,380/kWp

Carbon savings are based on a grid average of 0.52kg CO2/kWh

Potential returns are based on an unshaded south facing roof at 30 degrees with a grid electricity price of 15.32p and a school using 50% of the energy they produce.

Feed-in tariff levels based on levels at time of writing i.e. 1st April 2014 - 1st July 2014.

To create a picture of overall returns, we have calculated feed-in tariffs over 20 years but carbon savings and energy bills over 25 years - reflecting the usual lifespan of panels.

The legal stuff

This website is governed by the terms and conditions laid out here.

When you donate to Solar Schools we gather some data about you - the nature and use of which is laid out in our privacy policy.

We have a Code of Conduct which gives guidelines for messages posted on this website by users. You can read it here.