Mater Dei School for children with special needs in Camden, NSW, is the latest in a growing number of Good Samaritan Education schools to embrace solar power so as to reduce their electricity costs and their carbon footprint.
Mater Dei’s new 150-kilowatt solar power installation, officially launched last month, has been operating since March this year and is already having an impact on the school community and the environment.
Tony Fitzgerald, Principal and CEO of Mater Dei, said the increasing cost of electricity, especially to heat the school’s indoor therapy pool throughout the year, was becoming unsustainable.
“Because of the importance of the [hydrotherapy] program to the lives of our students, we needed to investigate alternatives,” he said.
“The solar option not only provided a more sustainable, cost-efficient delivery in the long run, but was also a wonderful ‘fit’ with the Good Sams’ commitment to stewardship of the environment.”
The new solar installation, which consists of 600 solar panels over three rooftops, covering an area of some 980 square metres, was made possible with a Federal government grant of $328,709, secured with the support of Macarthur MP, Russell Matheson.
Russell said the solar system installed at Mater Dei will provide enough power to maintain a pool temperature of up to 30 degrees, and not only cut electricity costs for the school, but also reduce the environmental impact of heating the hydrotherapy facility.
“The system’s performance can also be monitored and managed through an online portal which will record the amount of electricity generated and carbon dioxide offsets and provide the school with an opportunity to trade green energy under the Renewable Energy Act,” he explained.
Speaking at the official launch late last month, Tony Fitzgerald thanked Russell Matheson and Minister Jamie Briggs for funding the project.
“We are very grateful to our local Federal Member for Macarthur, Russell Matheson, and the Federal Government Department of Infrastructure and Development for this significant grant.
“The power we are generating via this project is a significant cost saving of approximately $40,000 per annum. That money can be invested in staff. It would be the equivalent of one teacher for two days per week, a teacher’s assistant four days per week, or a speech therapist two days per week.”
Tony also paid tribute to project installer Solgen Energy, who provided “a remarkable design solution that is a perfect fit for our organisation”.
“Solgen Energy used Trismart solar panels, which meant we could keep the 50-year-old forest red gum, which causes significant shading to the roof space, with no detrimental effect on the overall system,” he said.
Established as a special school by the Good Samaritan Sisters in 1957, Mater Dei provides early intervention therapy services, education and residential programs for babies, children and young people with an intellectual disability or developmental delay.
Photo on left shows left to right: Tony Fitzgerald (Principal, Mater Dei), David Naismith (Director, Solgen Energy), John Adam (Chair, Mater Dei Board), Russell Matheson (MP)
Photo on right shows Macarthur MP Russell Matheson with Mater Dei students in their solar heated pool.