Smart Energy Schools Pilot Project case studies

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Weilmoringle Public School 

Solar and battery system testing new back-up power sources for remote school community

A new solar and battery system has now been installed at Weilmoringle Public School to help test stand-alone off grid renewable energy solutions in isolated rural communities.

The school services 12 students from the remote Aboriginal community of Weilmoringle, which is nestled next to the NSW-Queensland border about 100 km north of Brewarrina.

Over the past 12 months its normally parched and dry landscape has been inundated with flood water flowing south through the Culgoa River bed.

On four occasions the small community has been surrounded and cut off by flood water, however the last flood incident coincided with an intense lightning storm which knocked down several power lines that feed the township.

It’s the only grid connected power source and when it’s knocked out, rooftop solar on local housing and the school are also automatically disconnected – leaving the community with no power source.

School principal Michael Mendes said prolonged power outages left the school, its students and local community members without access to important services.

“We lost power for three days during the last flood and it left the school and community highly exposed,” Mr Mendes said.

“We lose communications and then water and septic services follow soon after, so it means the school has to close.

“This has a larger impact in remote communities. The school is so central to the students and their families.”

An extra 5 kW solar array has been added to the existing 5 kW system at the school. A 19 kWh battery has also been installed.

The new 10 kW system will generate enough power to supply the school, with excess energy used to charge the battery, or sent back into the grid.

The systems have been configured so that the battery remains charged so it can be used when the power supply is interrupted at the school.

An outlet has also been provided to allow a generator to be connected to the school’s electrical network as an additional backup power option.

It would usually take several months to plan and deploy this type of independent renewable energy system.

However, the installation for Weilmoringle Public School was planned, transported and installed in a matter of weeks prior to Christmas, with the team from the Newcastle based Elite Power Group driving over two days to get the system installed.

The installation has been installed as part of the Smart Energy School Pilot Project and will test the use of embedded renewable energy to help build resilience in remote or isolated school communities.