By Hazvinei Mwanaka
Rural and urban schools have been urged to embrace renewable energy technologies particularly solar to assist in their learning activities.
With the power outages being experienced in the country and the high costs of electricity, solar energy could be the answer to learning activities at schools.
Masvingo provincial education director Zediuos Chitiga, in Zimbabwe’s southern province, said they have encouraged most schools in the area to go on grid and to have a backup for renewable energy especially boarding schools.
“The internet is a requirement in our system because we have a cross-cutting learning which is information communication technology centred (ICT). Each learning area is ICT enabled and in this area solar can be ideal.
“It’s very critical even in the development of our country. Access to the internet, e-books, are a learning enhancement,” said Chitiga.
He said the major challenge they have is the capacity of schools to embrace any form of renewable energy due to the high costs of installation.
ZERO (a regional non-governmental organisation) programme officer, Wellington Madumira, said solar energy is the best form of energy to provide for schools.
“Every school has the potential to generate its own renewable energy as most schools have a large roof, solar PV is normally a good option. There are, however, other alternatives, such as wind turbines, biomass boilers or air/ground source heat pumps,” he said.
Madumira said renewable energy requires low maintenance than traditional generators though it needs high initial capital costs.
“School facilities are excellent candidates for solar conversion, particularly large campuses spread out over a wide geographic area. For schools, solar panels can easily offset monthly utility bills.
“With a larger installation, it may even be possible to switch to 100% renewable energy. In addition, solar energy in schools presents a great teaching opportunity that can enrich classroom content with real-world examples of the benefits of renewable energy,” he added.
According to Madumira solar energy is an ideal starting point for showing students how their studies apply to everyday life.
“In addition to enhancing education, solar panels in schools may motivate students to explore a new career field they otherwise wouldn’t have considered. The term “green collar jobs” refers to positions that specialise in using environmentally conscious design and technology to improve sustainability and promote conservation of our planet’s natural resources,” he said.
Madumira said solar power’s ability to generate power when emergency conditions prevent access to a utility grid, is one its often overlooked benefit.
“Having a reliable source of power in an emergency becomes crucial if a school also serves as a community evacuation centre.
“Producing your own electricity via solar energy has proven to provide excellent public relations benefits for schools and private businesses alike,” he said.
“A school that uses solar power will be a source of pride for students, parents and community members.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association states that surging demand for solar power will add hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs in areas such as research, development, construction, manufacturing, marketing and sales.