OREF Small Grants Scheme Supports Solar Challenge For Schools

Following on from the success of last year’s Blyth Challenge, OREF is delighted to be able to support this year’s Orkney International Science Festival’s renewable energy challenge for schools through its Small Grants Scheme.

The OREF Small Grants Scheme is intended to provide financial support for imaginative small green projects in Orkney by making grants up to £1000 available for projects that further OREF’s aims to help the development of renewable technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency in Orkney.

Blyth Challenge 2022 Winners - Evie Primary School

The scheme is intended to support Orkney and the community. Therefore, applications are welcomed from Orkney residents and qualifying organisations based in Orkney who wish to:

  • Develop a project and/or
  • Get support for a feasibility study and/or
  • Undertake small-scale research

Dave Craig from SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland successfully applied to the Small Grants Scheme to fund kits made up of solar cells and electronic components to wire up for testing, for every school in Orkney who would like to take part in this year’s OISF Orkney Sun 2 solar challenge.

Dave explains how the Orkney Sun 2 challenge he has set for Orkney schools will further research into the potential of solar energy in Orkney:

“Solar cells usually face the sun, but a new type of cell works with the sun on either side. There’s plenty of space in Orkney for ground-mounted units, and in summer the sun can be behind the panel for many hours. But which type works better in Orkney, single-faced or bifacial? No one knows! So we need schools to make a fair test and then we can bring together their results.”

There are two sections, one for primary and one for secondary, and teams of up to five pupils can enter. The entry deadline is Saturday 9 September, during the Orkney International Science Festival, and there are prizes of £50 and £25 for the best reports in each section, with the prizes donated by Solar Dynamix and Wire Brigade.

Solar PV panels on Westrow Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Orphir
Solar PV panels on Westrow Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Orphir (Credit K.Bichan)

As well as the chance to win a prize while learning about solar energy, Orkney’s school pupils have the potential to contribute directly to renewable energy research in Orkney.

Dave Craig explains:

“If this works, there may be an unexpected advantage. There is a 4kW limit on grid-connected installations in Orkney. A bifacial installation rated at 4kW may squeeze more kilowatt-hours per day out of the same regulatory straitjacket.”

The Orkney Sun 2 competition pack can be downloaded here and teachers can contact Dave Craig to request a kit for their class by emailing dave.craig@scdi.org.uk.

OREF board member Becky Ford, who has been part of the collaboration with OISF and Dave Craig, is excited to see the results of the challenge:

“It seems particularly appropriate for OREF to be able to support the Orkney Sun 2 challenge, which gives Orkney schools a hands-on experience of renewable energy research. Young folk in Orkney will shape the future of the islands, as we face the challenges of climate change and the need for sustainable low carbon energy. Who knows, the results of this challenge may directly shape the development of solar generation in Orkney and inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. This is exactly the type of project we hoped the OREF Small Grant Scheme would be able to support.”

The OREF Small Grant Scheme is funded by part of the €100,000 awarded to Orkney when it won 3rd place in the European Commission’s RESponsible Island Prize in 2019.

The prize name referred to the combination of renewables (RES) and responsibility. It aimed to reward achievements in local renewable energy production for islands. It was awarded based on the share of renewable energy produced by innovative energy technologies, environmental and socioeconomic sustainability and impact, and citizen and community involvement as well as replicability of the solution.

Orkney impressed the judges and was awarded 3rd place by demonstrating how the islands had overcome a series of energy challenges and were now among European leaders in using novel green technologies for decarbonization.

Neil Kermode, Chair of OREF:

‘We were delighted that the pioneering work Orcadians are doing was recognised by the EU through the award of the RESponsible Islands Prize. As part of the application we promised to use some prize money to drive forward decarbonisation and so this small grant scheme is part of that.’

We looked at other grant schemes and decided we wanted to provide the maximum encouragement by being the first to the table with money. Many other schemes like to be the one that finally gets a project over the line and to only pay up if others do. We feel that there are many good ideas where they need money right now to trigger progress or other contributions. This is why the money is available at the start and up front.’

More information about the Small Grants Scheme can be found on the OREF website along with details on how to apply.