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?

Solar Schools is a totally unique way to crowdfund clean energy for your school.

There are loads of ways to put solar on a school roof, but the magic of Solar Schools comes from the adventures you have along the way! We provide schools with a tried and tested package of resources, training and support. They get a small team of volunteers together and get to work - dreaming up fun events and ideas to get everyone involved.

The year-long crowdfunding effort involves hundreds of people, and leaves an amazing legacy of new skills, stronger community links, energy awareness and local pride.

To make sure we can support all kinds of school, big and small, we offer two different funding models.

Solar Schools Classic

Schools raise £8-15k, own their own solar panels outright and get 100% of the income from day one.

Solar Schools Community

Schools raise 5k+ and invest in a larger solar roof through a Community Benefit Society.

Find out more about our models and which might work best for a school you love.

How much do participating schools have to raise?

Solar Schools provides schools with the tools and support they need to raise more than they ever have before. For some schools that might be £5,000, for others, £50,000. 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 are free to select a target based on their roof capacity and level of ambition!

For schools with small roofs (or big fundraising ambitions), we suggest going with our Solar Schools Classic model. For this, we support them in raising anything in excess of £8,000 to purchase and own a solar rig (and all its financial benefits) outright.

For schools with big roofs (or smaller fundraising ambitions) there is our Solar Schools Community model. We support schools in raising £5k+ to invest in a Community Benefit Society which installs and owns solar panels on the school roof. Schools then enjoy maximum carbon cuts, reduced price electricity and a return on their investment for 20 years!

How do you know this approach works?

Past and present Solar Schools are testament to what can be achieved. Together, they've raised over £470,000 in the last four years and installed solar panels everywhere from the Scilly Isles to Stockton-on-Tees.

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.

“The whole school is buzzing with positivity since we took part.”
“Our Solar Schools highlight has been... seeing how supportive the local community and small businesses have been! They are keen to support us with money, time and resources to run events.”
“The website was an inspirational way to fundraise and engage pupils, parents and the wider community. It was our first ever attempt to fundraise in this way and everyone loved it.”

Our Solar Schools’ favourite outcome? The impact on pupils!

“The children are so much more aware now of the environment and they’re still enthusiastic about it, and the panels, and they’ll introduce the school as ‘so we’re the school with the solar panels’... They’re really proud of what they’ve achieved and I think you can feel that in the school.”

Check out our research into the impacts of Solar Schools and see what it could do for your community.

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.

Each year, we provide schools with the full Solar Schools toolkit completely free of charge. This year (2014-15), that was made possible thanks to support from our partner Good Energy.

Becoming a Solar School

How does a school become a Solar School?

Applications for Solar Schools 2015-16 are now closed. Please email the team to register your interest in the next round of applications. hello@solarschools.org.uk

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.

To make sure we can support all kinds of school, big and small, we offer two different funding models.

Solar Schools Classic

Schools raise £8-15k, own their own solar panels outright and get 100% of the income from day one.

Solar Schools Community

Schools raise 5k+ and invest in a larger solar roof through a Community Benefit Society.

Find out more about our models and which might work best for a school you love.

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

Check out our news page to read about how other schools have become Solar Schools, or take a look at one school's inspiring story to get a flavour of what makes this project so special.

There are two funding models available, how do schools choose?

The beauty of Solar Schools comes from the crowdfunding process. Not only does our tried and tested toolkit help schools raise more than ever before, but it’s during that journey that our schools bring their communities together, learn new skills and confidence and get everyone involved and excited about energy. But how much each school can raise and how much solar their roof can support will vary case by case.

That’s why we offer two different funding models through the project. There are benefits to both - what works best for a school will depend on the building, the building owner, the community and the school’s capacity.

Our application process is designed to help schools gather the info they need to make that decision. As a very rough guide Solar Schools Classic is more likely to suit schools with bigger fundraising ambitions, smaller roofs, and maybe slightly trickier landlords. Solar Schools Community is designed for schools with roof capacities that far outstretch their fundraising ambitions.

Find out more about our models and which might work best for a school you love.

Need more info? Give us a ring - 0207 3886688.

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.

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 help schools to have a basic scoping study done by a solar installer. 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.

For those schools opting for the Solar Schools Community model, they’ll also need a cooperative building owner happy to enter into a roof lease arrangement.

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. A roof that can take some solar! We talk schools through having a solar installer check out their roof (don’t worry, it’s free).
  2. A team ready and willing to work on the project.
  3. The support of all the key people at the school – we provide info sheets and questions for headteachers, governors, PTAs, local authorities and/or building owners to get them up to speed and on board.

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.

For schools participating in the Solar Schools Community model, we will also liaise with your building owner to arrange and maintain your solar installation.

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.

All schools participating in Solar Schools will sign a contract with 10:10, the organisation behind Solar Schools. This is designed to cover all elements of the crowdfunding and provides a clear agreement between all parties involved.

Schools (or their local authority/building owner) participating in the Solar Schools Community model will have additional contracts to sign that cover the leasing of the roof.

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.

To help teachers incorporate renewables and energy into the curriculum, we work with excellent partners to provide lesson plans and teacher training.

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

To ensure we can support all different types of school, we provide two different funding options. For those who want to own their own panels outright, we’ll support you in raising anything upwards of £8k. However, if that seems unachievable for your school, there is the Solar Schools Community model where schools can raise £5k+ and we secure the rest of the funding through a national share offer.

With both models, our schools are trying to do something ambitious and there's always an element of risk - especially in hectic school environments! 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 (for example switching from our Classic to Community model), 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.

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?

Firstly, we never handle any of the money that schools raise through the project. The Solar Schools website is integrated with the payment system GoCardless that transfers money directly into an account of the school’s choosing.

When it comes to who owns the panels, that depends which funding model a school opts to go with.

Solar Schools Classic: We help schools crowdfund the full cost of a solar installation. The panels and all of the benefits associated with them belong entirely to each school.

Solar Schools Community: Schools agree to lease their roof space to our Solar Schools Community Benefit Society (bencom) which then installs, owns and maintains a maximum size solar panel rig and sells all of the electricity produced back to the school at a discounted rate. Plus, participating schools invest funds they raise as community shares in the bencom and have them returned with interest! The lease with the bencom is 20 years. After this time the panels will be given to the school, and should last another 15 years.

What is a Community Benefit Society?

Under the Solar Schools Community model, schools lease their roof to a Community Benefit Society and invest in this through community shares.

A Community Benefit Society (bencom) is a social enterprise that is democratically owned and run by its members. It monitors and maintains the panels, shares out the profit among shareholders and ensures the maximum benefit for the community.

Who runs the Community Benefit Society?

The Solar Schools Community Benefit Society will be owned by its members, the shareholders, but it will be run by a board of five directors. The board will be made up of three school representatives from previous Solar Schools, one person from the 10:10 team and a representative from not-for-profit energy cooperative Energy4All.

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

Solar Schools is not a solar installation company. The installers depend on which model has been selected.

Solar Schools Classic: 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.

Solar Schools Community: In this model, the Solar Schools Community Benefit Society (bencom) will be the purchaser and as such will select the installer who will carry out the work. All contracting and liability etc will sit with the bencom, who will select an installer based on stringent criteria (including their experience working within school environments!)

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 59,000 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 more than 40,000 electricity and 15,000 gas customers across the UK. In 2014-15, support from Good Energy is allowing 10:10 to offer our 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!

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

As part of your application, we help you arrange to have a scoping study carried out by a solar installer which should 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.

The legal stuff

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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.