The Wallace Way: Green Technologies – From iPads to Solar Panels

Written by | News, Frontpage, Principal

Wallace continues to lead in the phased introduction of new technologies to embrace new opportunities for our young people and to reduce our school and community carbon footprint in line with the goals of the NI Climate Change Act 2022.

As a school, Wallace has a well established local, national and international reputation for the innovative use of digital technology to add value to teaching and learning, assessment and our young people’s transversal skill acquisition.  Our Year 8 this week are excited about their iPad induction and we look forward to deepening their learning and expanding our Year 8 students’ access to rich digital resources in a seamless transition from school to home.

Green Technologies

Phase One began 12 years ago with the introduction of a whole school 1 to 1 iPad project.

Phase Two began pre-pandemic with a full refit of all lights in our School to low energy light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and fittings.  LED bulbs have a longer life span (x5) than traditional halogen bulbs and use approximately 80% less energy to produce a similar amount of light.  We are delighted by the reduced costs and general reduced maintenance/replacement requirements.

As is often the challenge for the School, upfront capital investment precluded a light replacement scheme and there was no funding available from either the Education Authority or the Department of Education for the scheme.  Instead, the Trustees worked in collaboration with a company to develop a scheme with no upfront costs.

Phase Three of our carbon footprint reduction saw the Trustees successfully apply for funding earlier this year for a very significant solar panel project.  The School is delighted to announce that following a successful application, procurement and tendering process, a contractor has been appointed. 

During November 400 solar panels will be installed on the following roof areas of our School campus: Assembly Hall, Sports Hall, Canteen and Gym.   This project totalling close to £300,000 is fully funded and our goal is to provide energy which will satisfy our hot water needs across the school year.

Phase Four : We are also pleased to announce that the Trustees plan to progress our green agenda further and have a planning application currently lodged with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for a new insulation/glazing ‘Structural Thermal System’ for the school façade.

Whilst we are frustrated by the slow progress of our application for the Structural Thermal System through LCCC Planning Department, we remain hopeful that planners and Councillors will support the School’s wish to meet the challenges of the NI Climate Change Act 2022 which sets ambitious targets for a reduction in net zero greenhouse gas (GHS) emission by 2050. 

Green Technologies Focus

At Wallace, we wish to create a more energy efficient building and reduce our resilience on fossil fuelled heating.  Through this proposed new Structural Thermal System, for which we aim to secure 100% funding, the energy efficiency of the School will be improved. 

Combined with our plans for a hybrid heating system, our solar panels and proposed Structural Thermal System will deliver, over 25 years, a saving of 50 million KWH, almost 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £6.23 million.

Importantly, in tandem with our ongoing business case development and our project planning, we are working to develop the knowledge and understanding of our young people in environmental awareness and green technologies. 

Our June 2023 Project Based Learning fortnight focused on sustainability. We are also delighted with the great work by our very own Eco Club. Led by Ms McKee and Miss Wilson, this group of young climate activists are now collaborating with a Dutch school to learn about effective strategies that we can employ to further develop our green campaign.

Mrs O’Hare : Green Technologies

Mrs O’Hare, our Principal, has been driving this 15 year programme of sustainable development.  She commented as follows about the imminent solar panel installation and progress made to reduce our carbon footprint.

“At a time when soaring energy costs, global conflict and local public sector funding pressures have created the ‘perfect storm’ of pressure on the School’s estate  and budget in Northern Ireland, I am very grateful for the support of the Trustees and the Governors of Wallace have given me to find strategic alliances with companies and suppliers allowing us to continue to improve and develop our School’s estate at a time of capital development freeze across NI schools. 

Whilst the barriers to, for example, ensuring every young person can learn using their own iPad, a condition we made possible 12 years ago, can seem insurmountable, the Trustees and Governors of this School have always supported me in seeking to work outside the normal, established EA/DENI funding streams.

The School’s motto is ‘Esperance’ meaning ‘Hope’.  We were the first School in Northern Ireland to have a 1 to 1 iPad roll out and we are now the first to develop a Carbon Reduction Plan and see such substantive investment in our solar panel installation.  We currently use approximately 2,108,900 KW hours of energy annually, the vast majority of which is dependent on fossil fuel production costing £21,000 approximately per month, generating over 310t CO2 per year.  Our solar panel installation, whilst a significant first step in our carbon reduction plan, is one small step and I remain focused on the remaining phase. 

I would encourage LCCC planners and Councillors to look expediently at our application to allow us to seek 100% funding once again for this pivotal ‘Structural Thermal System’.  The stated vision of LCCC in ‘Lisburn and Castlereagh Community Action Plan 2019-2024’ is to be progressive and dynamic council that works in partnership with others to meet the needs of the local community and enhances the quality of life of its residents; a core principle of the plan is to: “help deliver climate change mitigation and adaption by protection carbon stores… promoting energy efficient measures for buildings and homes…” I believe our application fits neatly within this vision.

As a School leader, in this community, I applaud the goals of the LCCC Community action Plan.  I am very grateful for the curriculum support and interest invested by the LCCC Chief Executive’s Office in our sustainable curriculum.  I look forward with ‘Hope’ to the support of LCCC Planning Department for approval of our projects currently lodged.

The project we currently have lodged with LCCC Planners are the innovative Structural Thermal System and a fully funded standalone energy efficient pavilion building.  The pavilion, once constructed, will serve as a training and education showcase for local contractors and to educate and develop skills locally in sustainable new build.”

Last modified: December 18, 2023