A tiny Northland school is now producing its own power and shaving thousands of dollars off its annual power bill.

Peria School, situated inland from Taipa in the Far North, is a school with a difference. It now serves as one of many examples of solar power being used for community purposes.

The school has become increasingly expensive to run despite its tiny roll of 31 students. This is in part due to power bills which have averaged $900 per month.

Peria School realised the money they spent on power could otherwise be spent on more important items, essential to its pupils' education.

The school is proud to be an 'Enviro School' - encouraging the local population to create a healthy, vibrant and sustainable community.


The school recycles all of its own waste, provides the children with a 'food forest' and works to reduce its carbon footprint.

Peria School Principal Jason Tane had been searching for new ways to save money, and decided the school and its board of trustees should look into ways of creating their own energy.

The school approached a number of providers of solar system for quotes, eventually settling on SolarKing.

"I couldn't believe that a small school like this, with 31 pupils at this time, had to pay so much per month just on power," SolarKing owner Roy Maddox said.

"I could see that the installation of solar power could immediately save the school 60 to 70 per cent of the school's power bill - money that they could spend on much more valuable learning tools."

Mr Maddox suggested the school install a 10kW grid-tied solar system, saving the school around $6000 per year at current power costs.

He then donated the first $5000 of the installation costs to the school to help get the project going, as well as donating a $500 commission on the sale of any residential solar systems in the local region.

Early in June, the school also received a grant of almost $10,000 from Pub Charity.


All of these funds are important due to the government's school energy spending cap and the fact that no other government funding is forthcoming.

An official opening ceremony was held last Monday for Peria School's new solar system.

"Solar power is one of the smartest, greenest forms of electricity generation available," Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman, who attended the launch, said.

"Getting power from the sun rather than buying it from the big electricity companies is the difference between renting power and owning it."

Dr Norman added that the system will also play a role in the children's education.

"In schools where children are learning about clean energy and energy efficiency, they are leaning skills that they will carry through the rest of their lives."

Hospice Mid-Northland is another example of solar power in the community.

The service has moved into a new building, which will provide terminally ill patients and their families and whanau with comfort and dignity.

Hospice Mid-Northland Fundraising and Awareness Manager Aleysha Pangari said the move hadn't been easy.

The hospice needs to raise over $450,000 per year more than it receives in government grants to continue their free-of-charge 24/7 care operation.

They have received a Pub Charity grant for the purchase and fit-out of the building and SolarKing has donated a 5kW rooftop power system.

By Maddox's calculation, this will help Hospice Mid-Northland save approximately $2500 a year on their electricity bill.

"The bulk of the energy generated is used directly as it is collected during the day, when the load within the hospice is at its greatest. This is the most efficient and cost-effective use of solar energy in an application where a larger number of people are drawing on that power."

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