Dozens of schools in New South Wales will take part in Australia’s largest school-based trial of solar, battery energy storage and virtual power plant (VPP) technology.

The project is called the Smart Energy Schools Pilot Project and is being run by School Infrastructure New South Wales.

It will involve the deployment of around 4,600 solar panels and 3,200KWh of battery energy storage capacity at 60 New South Wales public schools.

The project will also test how the public education system can access financial benefits from VPPs. 

New South Wales Treasurer and Minister for Energy, Matt Kean, said the trial will help the New South Wales Government meet its commitment of net zero emissions by 2050.

“We know that solar is one of the best ways to slash the state’s energy bill and emissions,” Mr Kean said.

“Adding cloud-based virtual power plant software means that energy generated on site can be used, stored or shared with other schools or homes via the electricity grid.”

Wee Waa primary school in the state’s north west will not take part in the trial. Instead, it will test the viability of using solar and batteries as a stand-alone off-grid energy solution for demountable classrooms.

A number of schools will also be testing the use of smart controls in air conditioning units to see if they can work with the solar and battery systems to reduce demand and avoid the need for costly upgrades to the local electricity network.

Solar and battery systems have already been installed at about a dozen schools, and work is continuing to complete the remaining installations by the middle of 2022.

The VPP trial is expected to begin soon after. Schools taking part in the trial will also be able to access an online dashboard showing a range of downloadable energy data.

Member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres, said he was thrilled to be at the school to speak with the teachers and students about the new renewable technology.

“We now have more than 130 solar panels and a large battery energy system with 78KW hours of storage capacity here at Kingswood Public School,” Mr Ayres said.

“Lowering energy costs means we invest more funds in better educational outcomes.

“I look forward to seeing the trial progress, delivering educational outcomes, along with energy savings.”

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