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Hunter schools set to become green, here's how

Leader: Hunter schools will follow the successful solar panel plan used at Nimbin Central School. Picture: Supplied

Multiple schools in the Hunter region will turn to solar energy as part of a new trial.

Sixty NSW public schools will be taking part in the largest school based trial of solar, battery energy and Virtual Power Plant technology to generate, store and share renewable energy with the community.

More than 4600 solar panels will be installed at the 60 schools to help reduce emissions by 1670 tonnes of CO2 a year, which is the equivalent of taking 478 cars off the road.

Energy generated at the schools will then be used, stored or shared with other schools or homes.

This is estimated to cut school energy bills by roughly $554,000 a year.

Muswellbrook High School was selected to take part in the trial. Principal Kylie Fabri said the school does not currently use solar panels, with hopes the new initiative will bring a positive change to both the community and the school now and in the future.

"Not only do we hope it will save costs and energy but we also have a STEM class at school and because we all have access to the technology that will be invested into the smart energy systems it will become a key teaching and learning aspect for us," said Ms Fabri.

"Even in terms of speaking to students about employment and showing them that this is the way the world is going. More than just providing the energy it will also give us a teaching and learning resource to assist with our students in terms of innovation."

An online portal showing how much energy is used, generated and stored at the schools will be created for teachers to use in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Minister for education Sarah Mitchell said the test schools will discover the most effective ways to harness and use renewable energy back onto the electricity grid.

"We have over eight million square metres of NSW public schools roof spaces and we are looking at how we can utilise this space to reduce electricity costs and improve the environment," said Ms Mitchell.

Callaghan College, Hunter River High School, Hunter School of Performing Arts, Kotara High School, Merewether High School, Muswellbrook High School and Newcastle High School were also selected for the trial because they were considered above average electricity users.

"We have quite a large campus and the school is quite spread out. Our selection was based on our high electricity consumption. We have a huge amount of air conditioning units that are operating continuously because we are in quite a hot climate so I see that there will be benefits coming our way," said Ms Fabri.

The solar panels and batteries are currently being installed across the pilot schools, with work expected to finish mid this year.

For each school it is unknown how many solar panels will be installed or how effective they will be.

"We know that it has been successful in other schools, but we don't know how many panels we will get and we don't know what the battery will hold but we can only try," said Ms Fabri.

New air conditioning units with smart controls are also being installed at some schools with smart energy systems to reduce electricity use during peak periods.

Battery energy will store electricity on site so that it can be used at a later time.

During weekends and school holidays energy that is not used or stored on the school site will be sold back into the electricity grid.