Pioneering Academy leads school computer revolution

Pupils at a leading academy are the first in the UK to use revolutionary technology that allows them to work on computers off-grid.

The Business Academy Bexley in Kent has taken a number of its desktop computers off-grid, slashing energy costs by as much as 90 per cent and eliminating any related carbon emissions.

As well as being good for the environment, the new solar powered IT system allows pupils to log on faster and teachers to get classes working quicker. With no sockets to connect to, there is complete flexibility to position desks anywhere in the classroom.

In 2013, the 18,000 British schools managed by local authorities spent nearly £410 million on energy. An estimated £63 million of this was spent running ICT systems, which equates to 525 million kWh of electricity and over 286,000 tonnes of carbon.

Bexley was an early adopter of green initiatives and installed a solar farm to provide almost all of the energy required to power the main building. It replaced old and inefficient UV lighting with cutting-edge LED lighting and opened a Green Learning Pod to educate students about energy use.

The pioneering school also installed a biomass boiler system, an environmentally sound heating solution, which is cost effective and more efficient than fossil fuel boilers.

The Academy runs several hundred PCs across its secondary and primary year groups for around 1,200 users and each uses £45 to £75 of electricity annually.

Over the past 12 months, the school has been working with award-winning Extreme Low Energy (ELE) to create a sustainable ICT solution using the latest solar powered Intel NUC PC’s aligned to ELE’s proven DC power solutions – to dramatically reduce its electricity bills.

The new IT system, which allows two PCs to operate for the equivalent energy of a 60 watt lightbulb, uses an intelligent ELE-POD battery system to efficiently store energy generated by the school’s solar panels ready for when it is most needed.

Using the new technology, a dozen computers were taken off grid to prove the concept could work. More computers will go over to the new technology in the coming months.

Michael Payne, Bexley’s Strategic Development Manager says: “We had long been aware that we were consuming a lot of energy across our PC estate. Our concerns were as much ethical as commercial in that the Academy has always sought to educate its students about environmental concerns and the effects of energy usage.

“Extreme Low Energy worked with us to create a system that gives us a great computing experience with almost no
power consumption.

“We are proud to be the first British school to have such a system, our pupils are enjoying the greater classroom flexibility the system gives us and we’re delighted that the energy savings we are making can be reinvested into the school.”

Mark Buchanan, a founder and director of Extreme Low Energy, said: “Until fairly recently, ICT departments have not been concerned about power. Now energy consumption is a costly problem and schools are increasingly looking for ways to
both save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

“We’re delighted to be working with The Business Academy Bexley who are leading the way with this revolutionary new technology. The children are using computers which look and feel the same but which are using power in a completely new way.

“Teaching the next generation of children about climate change, the importance of protecting our natural resources and saving our planet means something to them when they are taught in a zero carbon classroom.”

ELE is in talks with a number of other schools across the country.