Although it has been two months, the GreenClassroom project has grown in leaps and bounds. So before we run away from ourselves, let’s share some of the background, objectives, and progress.

As many of you would know, we have been helping schools with their water bills in the SmartWaterMeterProject – making them aware of their consumption and notifying them of any anomalous consumption. This was done with the Dropula in partnership with a plethora of corporate partners.

While we were working on the water project, we started investigating the opportunities of helping the schools with their electricity bills and carbon footprints too. The first thing we did was to evaluate the use of alternative power sources, such as solar (PV). Our simulations showed an opportunity to use solar power since the power profile from solar matched really well the demand profile from a typical school, which means that batteries would not be required. Moreover, the schools had large roof real-estate upon which the installations could be done. However, raising the capital for a full PV installation was never going to be easy, especially with already cash-strapped schools.

234x163 Wattson  536x140 GreenClassroom Stakeholders

Then, in August, one of the final year Engineering students (Ruan Viljoen) came up with the idea of a GreenClassroom, which he intended to be net zero energy. In a matter of days, we had partners on board, ranging from alternative light suppliers (OrbitX, a local manufacturer of direct-drive LEDs), suppliers of smart meters (us, Bridgiot, obviously), the University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), the Scatec Solar Research chair at E&E Engineering, and all the good solar partners (Energy Partners, Kigeni, Scatec), and SKEP studio architects, and Winelands Solar and RBS Electrical for the installations. Together, we set up the project, and at Laerskool Stellenbosch, Rhenish Primary, and AF Louw Primary installed a PV plant to offset the classroom, replaced the lights with LED lights, ran an awareness campaign with the teaching staff and management.

Stellenbosch Primary Green Classroom Photo Rhenish Primary Green Classroom Photo AF Louw Primary Green Classroom Photo

Through these GreenClassrooms, we were able to drive a campaign for change, to reduce the carbon footprint of each school.

Though installing LED lights in the classrooms, we were able to halve the energy consumption and double the light int eh classrooms.

The behavioural experiment involved two more high schools and one secondary school. We measured the energy consumption of the whole school for a few schools in Stellenbosch (I am withholding their identities to protect their privacy). These schools are three primary schools and two secondary schools. We ran a small behavioural experiment to test the impact of sending daily information to these schools. The experiment was started on 9 October, performed in the remainder of the month with the following intervention:
Intervention part 1: Sharing by email monthly, weekly and daily consumption information for every hour of the day. We expressed the information in terms of energy and monetary cost.
Intervention part 2: Giving two presentations at the school, one to the teachers and one to the assistant staff. The presentation explained the effect of greenhouse gasses and climate change, the Rand, energy and CO2 usage quantities of typical devices (e.g. refrigerators and air conditioners), and also an explanation of the electricity tariff structure imposed by the municipality.
Primary schools 1 and 2 and Secondary school A received the intervention
Primary school 3 and Secondary school B: No intervention
The preliminary results are shown below, and demonstrate the large effect of the behavioural change (10 October – 31 Oct for 2017, and 9 October – 30 October for 2018).

This is a difference-in-differences saving of 14 % in energy used.

Our next steps are to replace more inefficient lights at the schools and then to start the process to convert the whole schools to PV.