After years of campaigning Ireland’s schools now set to run on sun

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Solar powered schools will be a shining example of the benefits of small scale, community owned renewable energy 

Friends of the Earth has today [23rd November] welcomed the Government’s launch of the first phase of the Schools Photovoltaic Programme, which will provide eligible schools with 6 kilowatts of roof-mounted solar PV, which equates to approximately 16 solar panels. The announcement comes after years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth, schools and community groups who have been calling on the Government to make it possible for schools to install solar panels as a way of reducing both emissions and energy bills and giving school communities control over the energy they generate and use. 

Commenting on the news, Deirdre Duff, Head of Communications at Friends of the Earth said: 

“After years of campaigning by the Friends of the Earth community, students, teachers, parents and community climate action groups, it’s fantastic to finally see our efforts pay off today. 

We should acknowledge the trailblazing schools, like the Brunner where today’s launch took place, who have worked with us to get solar panels on their roofs over the last few years. They’ve showcased the many benefits that small-scale renewable energy generation can bring, from the obvious reductions in emissions and energy bills to the inspiration it can give students who are concerned about the climate crisis and looking for ways to take action. Solar powered schools can act as beacons of light and hope in their communities - inspiring the homes, community buildings and local businesses around them to get solar panels too. It’s wonderful that schools all over the country will now be able to get involved and see these positive impacts of climate action.

Small scale, community owned renewable energy offers us the opportunity to take back control of our energy system - letting people and communities own and control their own energy instead of being caught in the grip of big corporations who care only about their own profits. 

While today’s news is welcome it’s long overdue - the Government’s delays in making it possible for schools to get solar panels have been very frustrating. Climate action measures must be rolled out at a much, much faster pace if Ireland is to have any chance of meeting our climate targets. That includes opening up subsequent phases of this solar schools programme so that all schools can get their solar panels. And making sure that those who are suffering from, or at risk of, energy poverty are supported in getting solar panels first.”

The scheme announced by the Government today will assist schools in reducing their energy costs [1] and their carbon footprint as part of the response to meeting the 2030 and 2050 Climate Action Plan targets for the schools sector. The solar PV panels in schools will also be connected to the electricity grid, so that the schools can generate income by powering other homes and businesses with clean energy when schools are closed at weekends and during school holidays.

As well as the obvious financial and climate benefits, it is expected that the visibility of the solar panels on schools will also deliver the added benefit of encouraging discussion and uptake of the technology in the wider community. The scheme will be rolled out on a phased basis [2], commencing with a call for applications [3] to over 1,600 schools from 11 designated areas across the country.



  1. The typical amount a school can save will depend on a number of factors. However, by way of example, a school with a 6 kW Solar PV installation could expect to save in the region of €1,200-€1,600 per annum on their bill, when the money they’ve earned for selling electricity to the grid is taken into account.

  2. The first phase will open for applications on 30th November 2023. All schools in the first phase will be contacted by the Department and invited to apply from that date. The intention is to include a further eight counties in phase two in Q2 2024 and the remaining eight counties in Q4 2024. It is intended that all eligible schools across the country will have the opportunity to apply to the scheme by end 2024. Schools in the following areas are invited to participate in the first phase: Co. Clare, Co. Donegal, Dublin City Council area, Co. Galway, Co. Kerry, Co. Kilkenny, Co. Leitrim, Co. Limerick, Co. Offaly, Co. Waterford and Co. Wicklow. 

  3. The Department of Education has developed detailed guidance documentation for schools and contractors availing of this programme which are now available at the following link: Schools Photovoltaic Programme.

  4. Friends of the Earth is grateful to the following funders who have supported our work over the years in relation to getting solar panels onto schools: Tomar Trust, Tides Foundation and Patagonia, ABO Wind, Conradh na Gaeilge, EirGrid and Elgin Energy.


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