Solar panels light up Abu Dhabi school efficiency

Nine panels funded by the Zayed Future Energy Prize will power the school’s lamps and fans

Bangladeshi Ambassador Muhammad Imran, left, and Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber attend a dedication ceremony for the installation of solar panels installed at the Sheikh Khalifa Bangladesh Islamia School in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Sammy Dallal / The National
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ABU DHABI // A school in Abu Dhabi hopes to reduce its energy consumption by up to 40 per cent by installing solar panels on its roof.

The nine panels, installed yesterday, are being funded by the Zayed Future Energy Prize in recognition of the environmental efforts of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School in Al Zahra.

The panels, which change direction according to the sun’s position, will be used to power the school’s lamps and fans.

Each panel will produce 3.84kW and operate for an average 5.5 hours a day, according to Aminul Islam, the design engineer at Mulk Enpar Renewable Energy, the company behind the technology.

This first phase of the scheme will cost about Dh150,000, said the school’s governing body member S M Shamsulalam. The school hopes to increase its number of panels to 16 and introduce a battery system that will be able to store the energy.

Acting principal, Mir Anisul Hasan, works with a team of two other teachers and two students tasked with reducing the school’s environmental footprint.

The non-profit community school, which has almost 600 students, has already reduced its energy consumption by 15 per cent over the past few years, mostly through switching to more efficient Led light bulbs. It has also started reusing waste water for watering plants.

Mr Hasan said it was hard to pay all the school’s expenses using only tuition fees, which he said ranged from Dh350 a month for high-school students and Dh600 a month for college students.

Becoming more energy efficient means becoming more cost efficient, he said. Doing so would enable the school to invest and hire new staff, rather than merely covering their costs.

“I have been here for 25 years and the environmental team was my initiative,” said Mr Hasan. “I started it one fine foggy morning, with a view to giving students exposure to environmental awareness. The present co-ordinator, Dr Anita Saul, is very serious, dedicated and enterprising. She is now the main force.”

One of the student members of the team, 17-year-old Fahad Bashar, has worked on the project for three years. He said his teacher, Dr Saul, inspired him to play an active role. Some of the students he works with are as young as six and are already aware of the importance of protecting the environment. “A lot of students didn’t understand the importance of the project, but once we explained they all joined in,” he said.

Solar energy is becoming increasingly cheap to produce, said Marc Norman, Emirates Solar Industry Association Marketing & Communications Director.

“Over the past five years, the cost of solar photovoltaic systems has dropped by over 50 per cent. This means that it costs half as much to produce 1 unit of solar energy as it did five years ago. As a result, in many markets the cost of solar electricity has reached what we call ‘grid parity’ which means that it now costs as much to generate power from solar than from conventional fuels like oil or natural gas.”

The Zayed Future Energy Prize was set up in 2008. It awards winning high schools prizes of between US$100,000 (Dh367,300) and $1.5 million for projects that find innovative solutions to save energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase production of clean, renewable energy.

In 2012, it became the world’s largest annual prize purse in renewable energy and sustainability, after awarding a total $4m.