A SCHOOL in Co Galway yesterday turned its playground into a farmyard complete with livestock in an unusual protest directed at the Government’s energy policy.
Lisheenkyle National School, four miles from Athenry, Co Galway, claims to be the only school in the Republic with its own wind turbine.
Teachers and pupils were protesting against restrictive green energy regulations that preclude a school – as opposed to a farm or other kind of enterprise – from obtaining credits or cash for the wind energy it produces out of school hours. As the turbine quietly sliced the air in the windswept school yard, the pupils eagerly got involved in the “farm sit-in”. They petted a pony, a calf, chickens and pups brought along for the day by local farmers, parents and friends.
School principal Anne Keary and the 227 pupils at Lisheenkyle National School want to send a message to Minister for Communications, Energy and National Resources Pat Rabbitte, that protocols governing micro generation, which is the small-scale generation of electric power by individuals, small businesses such as farms and communities, need to be broadened to include schools.
As it stands, the 11 kilowatt wind turbine, which was donated to the school by nearby CF Green Energy, is contributing in part to the school’s daily energy needs. It still has an annual electricity bill of about €5,000.
Under the current green energy regulations, the school, unlike farms or domestic energy producers, is prohibited from obtaining credits or cash from Electric Ireland for any unused energy its turbine delivers to the national grid after school hours and during school holidays.
In a bid to circumvent these regulations, Ms Keary says the next step is to apply for a herd number for the school in a bid to have it included in the protocol as a farm.
“The problem centres on the fact that there is no protocol for schools in Ireland,” she said. “Schools are treated like businesses. Although schools are not-for-profit organisations with charitable status, they cannot avail of micro generation. “As a country intent on reducing its carbon footprint, this anomaly makes no sense.” Turning Lisheenkyle National School into a mini farm will, she hopes, highlight the need for the Government to change the micro generation regulations and include Green Flag schools such as Lisheenkyle so they can get actively involved in reducing their carbon footprint in a meaningful and profitable way.