Using technology to harness solar power for schools


By Matthew Hawkridge, Chief Technology Officer, Ovarro
Wednesday, 20 July, 2022

Using technology to harness solar power for schools

Australian schools are receiving federal government grants for photovoltaic (PV) systems, solar hot water systems and rainwater storage.

The Solar for Schools program is funding the installation of solar panels in schools primarily for education purposes, to make environmental responsibility a key part of education and early learning. The solar systems are connected to each school’s main grid, to provide green power and reduce the building’s carbon footprint for a positive effect on the environment.

In addition, the systems will be connected to a cloud-based monitoring system. This means data from the solar panels can be accessed by students and local communities. Remote telemetry units (RTUs) will play a crucial role here because they are flexible and are designed to collect data from multiple sources and share that data with several recipients.

The Solar for Schools program has various requirements for the data. First, it will be used by students to help learn how solar panels supply their energy needs, even on cloudy days. Second, there will be the option for local communities to engage in the learning experience too and discover the effectiveness of solar panels. Third, the schools need to monitor the continual safe operation of the equipment. Lastly, the government will use the data to track the resulting CO2 reductions.

To satisfy all these demands, TBox RTUs from Ovarro were chosen to gather the data. The TBox is a complete supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in a single site controller. It is ideal for collating data from many sources, analysing the available information and reporting results to various recipients in multiple formats.

The ability of TBox RTUs to satisfy different end users is a key reason why it was chosen for the Solar for Schools project. Users of the system will require different data sets, and for these to be presented in different ways.

The TBox also offers ease of use. Novice users — such as students — can securely access data relating to the real-time monitoring and control of the schools’ solar systems. Meanwhile, stakeholders can use the RTUs for logging, communication, alarming inputs/outputs (I/Os) and presenting the data to others. So far, Ovarro’s TBox RTUs have been installed at 200 sites as approved data collection devices for the Solar for Schools program.

Top image caption: The Australian Government’s Solar for Schools program is funding the installation of solar panels in schools primarily for education purposes.

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