Schools across the country are or soon will be able to get solar panels installed for free as part of the newly announced Solar for Schools Programme

Solar for Schools will provide funding for eligible schools to have up to 6kWp worth of roof-mounted solar panels and inverters installed, along with all the periphery works such as connecting them to the grid, and providing monitoring software.

The grid connection will allow schools to sell surplus energy back to the grid, making a little extra money when they are closed and helping to power other homes with renewable energy.

The goal of the Solar for Schools Programme is to help schools reduce their energy costs at a time when prices are still very high, and to help meet emissions targets for the sector.

The first phase of the programme will open for applications on November 30, with approximately 1,600 eligible schools in eleven designated areas.

The first phase is open to schools of all levels in:

  • Co. Clare

  • Co. Donegal

  • Dublin City Council Area

  • Co. Galway

  • Co. Kerry

  • Co. Kilkenny

  • Co. Leitrim

  • Co. Limerick

  • Co. Offaly

  • Co. Waterford

  • Co. Wicklow

Free Solar Panels for schools in Ireland

In order to take part in this programme, schools within these Phase 1 areas must register with the programme by February 1, 2024 and submit quotations by March 15.

The government intends to expand the programme to cover a further eight counties in Q2 of 2024, and the remaining counties by the end of next year. It is expected that all schools will be able to apply for the programme by the end of next year.

Community Energy

Within the first phase of this programme alone, if all 1,600 eligible schools get 6kWp worth of solar panels installed, that is a combined capacity of 9.6MW of solar power, as large as many solar farms.

The majority of that electricity will be consumed by the day-to-day needs of the schools. However, in the frequent times when they are empty, those solar panels will be generating electricity for other homes and businesses to use, furthering Ireland’s green transition.

Selling Surplus Electricity

Not only will schools be able to reduce their own electricity consumption by a significant amount but they will also be able to further reduce their energy bill by selling surplus electricity generated by their solar panels.

The Clean Export Guarantee, which allows excess solar power to be sold back to the grid for a tariff fee set by energy suppliers, will be of huge benefit to schools thanks to their schedules.

Two days a week schools are closed, using little to no electricity, but the solar PV system will still be going at full capacity. That’s not even touching on school holidays at Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Summer most of all. Schools will be closed during some of the sunniest parts of the year when solar panels are at their most productive.

sell surplus solar energy back to the electricity grid

What if my School already has Solar Panels

Schools which have a solar PV system already installed which was not funded or provided by the Department of Education can avail of this scheme.

In addition, if a school has a solar PV system which did receive government funding, but which is smaller than 6kWp in size, they are eligible to apply for this scheme.

However, those schools with 6kW worth of solar panels which were funded by the Department of Education and installed after January 1, 2018 may not be eligible to apply for additional funding under this programme.

Battery storage and power diverters will not be eligible for funding under this programme.

All eligible schools within Phase 1 areas will be contacted by the Department of Education and invited to apply for the scheme.

Applying for Funding

Schools which wish to apply for the Solar for Schools Programme must submit at least three quotations from SEAI-registered contractors. The deadline for schools in Phase 1 to do this is March 15, 2024.

Each of these quotes must be given as a fixed price which is valid for at least six months with no conditions attached.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said that ultimately the programme will be able to help up to 4,000 schools nationwide to reduce their energy bills and carbon footprints.

“This ties in with the strong ethos of environmental awareness and climate sustainability among our students and the wonderful work they do in this area, most notably with the Green Flag initiative.”

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth added, “It’s great that schools around the country will now see their electricity bills drop while doing their bit for the climate.”

“Even when the school is closed for the holidays, they will earn money by selling the power they generate back to the grid.”

The government has not confirmed how much funding is being provided for the Programme, as they say they want to encourage competitive bidding from contractors.

Briain Kelly

RENEWABLE ENERGY RESEARCHER

Briain Kelly is a Leinster based journalist and content creator who has been writing about energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for nearly three years. He researches the latest news in multiple areas related to solar power, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and home energy upgrades. His writing includes both technological developments and government policy.

Solar Energy Saves Households Thousands in Electricity Costs

Take our 2-minute questionnaire and find affordable solar options to suit your budget and lifestyle