Solar panels reinforce the energy efficiency at a school
The Group of Schools of Gafanha da Nazaré has already in operation the first solar panels won in the Galp Foundation competition that distinguishes school projects promoting more efficient energy consumption
When we arrived, a park with hundreds of bicycles proves that we are in the right place. To enter the school grounds you have to go through an authentic parade of these two-wheeled vehicles, parked in a prominent place and protected by a huge cover. The entire building has large windows that look out onto patios and the sunlight is so abundant that light bulbs are not used for most of the day.
These are the clearest signs of a school that is particularly involved in environmental sustainability issues, which led to the visit of officials from the Galp Foundation, the Galp Solar, the Quercus, the APA (Portuguese Environment Agency), the ADENE (Energy Agency), the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology (DGEG) and the Directorate-General for Education, all partners of the award Escola Energy Up. This is an initiative of the Galp Foundation aimed at rewarding innovative, sustainable and inspiring projects developed by students and teachers. The winner of the first edition was precisely the Group of Schools of Gafanha da Nazaré with its SmartAir.
Chosen as winner among more than 60 applications, the project by the Group of Schools of Gafanha da Nazaré “stands out for being a call for sustainable mobility, for reinforcing the use of bicycles, for monitoring air quality and raising awareness to it and for having managed, in a very concrete and real way, to impact the school and the community, namely the municipality of Ílhavo, with an action project”, explained the executive director of the Galp Foundation, Diogo Sousa.
The prize – the installation of solar panels up to a value of 20 thousand euros, offered by the Galp Foundation and Galp Solar – will give the Group of Schools of Gafanha da Nazaré a “major boost to its pathway towards decarbonisation”, he added.
TAKE (MORE) ADVANTAGE OF EXPOSURE TO THE SUN
In addition to the 53 panels already installed – with an estimated annual production of 33.8 MWh, allowing savings of around 10% in energy bills and a reduction of eight tons of CO2 –, the school is still in the process of installing three more sets of solar panels, which will supply batteries associated with other pilot projects in the area of the environment and sustainability developed by the school: a mobile phone charging station, a sensor-based irrigation system for the greenhouse and an air quality monitoring unit, all of them being equipment developed internally at the school by students and teachers, and integrating various curricular areas, from ICT, Computer Applications, Physics and Chemistry, to English and French.
At the base of the project was the wish to raise awareness about of the need to began using again bicycles or electric traction vehicles in the area, but the development of the concept went much further: a diagnosis of the mobility conditions in the city was made and awareness campaigns and lobbying actions to improving access to non-polluting means of transport were outlined. The SmartAir initiative already had the involvement of the municipality and had given rise to the creation of a CO2 measurement kit to assess the levels of air pollution in Gafanha da Nazaré.
It should be noted that this kit, as well as other equipment for measuring air quality and charging mobile phones and electric vehicles, were fully developed at the school by the students, under the supervision of teachers Manuel Santos and Teresa Pacheco, coordinators of the project.
THE LESSON FROM THE STUDENTS
The Mayor of Ílhavo, João António Campolargo, did not remain indifferent to the technical capacity involved in the project. At the end of the visit to the school, he admitted to having received “a great lesson from the students, who showed us that, with simple practices, it is possible to develop equipment to charge electrical devices in bicycles or other types of equipment that can be used on public roads and, more importantly, be made in Ílhavo”.
In the same vein, Diogo Sousa, from the Galp Foundation, underlined the importance of the focus on innovation, noting that according to the International Energy Agency “decarbonisation solutions that can guarantee zero carbon goals by 2050 have not yet been invented, so it is important to realize that, yes, these are new experiences, new approaches at a local scale, but they have enormous potential and value when we think about future challenges”.
In addition to the role of raising the community awareness, the director of the group of schools, Maria Eugénia Pinheiro, also highlighted “the significant added value of this project for the educational programme and the enthusiasm it has generated among the students”. The teacher confesses that she is proud of the award received, but insists on emphasizing that “this project already existed, it was not made for the competition, and it reflects an environmental concern that has been a hallmark of ours for a long time”, which is clearly evident in the fact that all eight schools that make up the group have been distinguished as eco-schools.
In line with Maria Eugénia Pinheiro, the executive director of the Galp Foundation considers that the Group of Schools of Gafanha da Nazaré “is an example for the country”, not only for the project distinguished in the Energy Up, but also “for the way they are using the prize received to develop other initiatives that promote innovative and sustainable behaviour among young people”. And that is why he urges this school to compete again for Energy Up with more projects and other schools to use it as an example: “Now, let us have more projects. We had more than 60 applications in the first edition, we want many more applications now and we want this school to be used as a bastion of good practices”.
NEXT EDITION OF ENERGY UP
The visit served to formally launch the second edition of the Escola Energy Up award, the registrations being open up to the 8th of April. All primary and secondary schools in mainland and insular Portugal with projects or works in the field of energy already implemented or in progress can apply. Applications must be made here, on the Galp Foundation website.
GALP FOUNDATION GOES TO SCHOOLS
Since 2010, the Galp Foundation has annually distinguished school projects in the field of energy that promote more efficient energy consumption in the educational community. The Escola Energy Up prize was awarded for the first time in 2021, thus starting a new phase in the awarding of prizes to innovative, sustainable and inspiring projects developed by students and teachers in Portugal. The objective is to reward and give visibility to solutions that set an example for society as a whole in terms of environmental awareness and that emphasize the importance of responsible use of the resources of our planet.