A solar-powered modular classroom that generates enough energy to power itself and two additional rooms is being trialled in NSW schools, with the potential for a nationwide rollout.
Developed by Hivve Technology, the energy-positive classrooms have received close to $370,000 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to pilot the technology in two schools, starting this week.
The “Hivve” is a portable demountable-type building that includes solar PV, energy and CO2 monitoring, and data capture and communication to manage energy demand and indoor environment quality.
While ARENA said a typical classroom requires about 3800 kilowatts-hours of energy a year to operate, the Hivve is estimated to produce 7600kWh a year in excess energy, enough to power an additional two (air-conditioned) classrooms. According to Hivve Technology, energy savings are in the order of $3000 a year per building.
The two pilot classrooms are now being tested at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in the south-western suburb of Holsworthy in Sydney, and at Dapto High School in the Illawarra region. While a prototype has been tested in a controlled environment, the 12-month trial at the schools will be the first time Hivve has been tested in the real world.
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the test provided an opportunity for the schools to reduce reliance on the grid while educating students about renewables, thanks to real time access to energy, temperature and air quality data (collected in 15-minute intervals).
“This is a great way to get the next generation involved in renewables at an early age and educate them as to what the positive benefits will be as Australia continues its shift towards a renewable energy future,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“The success of the Hivve project could lead to a nationwide adoption of the modular classrooms, reducing reliance on the grid and even providing a significant amount of electricity back to the NEM.”
According to Hivve, the classrooms have been created with sustainable materials, and designed to maximise natural light and cross-flow ventilation, and optimise acoustics. It contains high-efficiency glazing, shading elements, high levels of insulation and a mixed-mode cooling system. Hivve Technology said the prefabricated modular construction helped to reduce waste, cut energy use and create recycling opportunities while allowing a cheaper, quicker build.
“We have carefully designed every element of the Hivve classroom to create the best possible learning environment for student,” Hivve director David Wrench said.
Federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg attended the launch of the trial at St Christopher’s this week.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about energy production and consumption as well as various exciting technology developments – many of which Australia is at the forefront,” he said.