Electricity to spark scholars

Education | Katie Hung 11 Jun 2019

With an installation of 1,168 photovoltaic panels, the new solar power system at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong has become the city's largest school-based system, and is expected to generate an annual revenue of HK$1.9 million.

The money will all be spent on supporting scholarships to benefit at least six students every year.

Joining CLP Power's Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Scheme, designed to encourage community participation in renewable energy development, the school is selling every kilowatt-hour of electricity to the company at HK$4 until the scheme's end in 2033. A total revenue of HK$26 million is projected from the sale.

College board chairman Anthony Tong said the school's current electricity bills cost about HK$1.5 million per year, and he estimates the payback period for the project takes approximately four years.

Starting from 2034, after the end of the scheme, the college can use electricity generated by its own solar system to save on electricity costs.

With a total capacity of 403 kilowatts, the system is projected to produce about 480,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year - equal to the annual electricity consumption of 120 four-person households. It will reduce 245,000 kilograms of carbon-dioxide emissions per year, or 10,700 trees planted over 25 years.

The panels are going to be installed on the rooftops of 10 different academic and residential blocks on the Wu Kai Sha campus, including the sports and assembly halls, during the summer, with the system to be in use in September.

Tong said the whole project cost of HK$9 million comes from donations, and the revenue generated will all be used to provide scholarships to students from grassroots families or developing countries.

Based on full scholarships of HK$300,000 covering both school and boarding fees, six students can benefit - or more even if some students are only granted half-scholarships.

"This green-energy project is our contribution towards the United Nation's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals," Tong said.

There are also some intangible results that will not be immediately clear, he said, adding the school hopes that "our students coming from developing countries will be able to bring back this 'fire' energy into helping their own countries' development."

With the Chinese and French photovoltaic panels, the system also adopts the Israeli inverter to not only maximize the energy produced by each panel, but also to generate real-time data, such as voltage, and update it to the internet. This will be more convenient and effective in the future when it comes to monitoring situations in electricity generation, as well as to prepare for students' research use.

Chief executive projects director Maria Leung, from Widex Technology Development, the project partner of the college, said the repair and maintenance fee is set at HK$20,000 each year. She said the lifespan of the panels should be 25 to 30 years, although depreciation would be a factor.

College principal Arnett Edwards said the project also brings exciting potential for teaching and learning.

"The technological components of the solar power system could open windows for STEM-focused learning, the socio-economic side could be explored during lessons in the context of the 80 countries from which our students come," he said.

Li Po Chun is among the 18 United World Colleges. Offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, 42 percent of its students come from Hong Kong, with others hailing from various countries, including developing ones like Nigeria.


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