Okehampton College sees the light

Okehampton College is a state-funded Technology College and Applied Learning Centre with 1,500 pupils. With support from Devon County Council, the college installed 30kW of photovoltaic panels and halved its annual electricity bill. This case study looks at how this was achieved.


Students outside Okehampton College

In 2008 and 2009, the Okehampton College installed 150 photovoltaic (PV) panels - a total system size of 30 kW.

This was in conjunction with other energy-saving measures that had been implemented since 2006, including an upgrade of roof and cavity wall insulation and the replacement 3,000 fluorescent lights with low-energy tubes.

The school was supported by the council, local education authority, EDF and a local buildings consultant.

Pictured on the right are proud Okehampton College students outside their energy efficient school which uses PV panels.


Schools and colleges are responsible for about half of total emissions made from the Devon County Council's property portfolio, including street lighting.

Under the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme, Devon has to purchase carbon allowances at a cost of £12 per tonne of CO2 to cover all these emissions.

So the council developed the Green Challenge Fund to match-fund investment in carbon saving projects made by schools and colleges.

The council paid for and provided an energy survey to the school, which was a detailed analysis of all options for reducing their energy and carbon emissions.

The Devon Green Challenge Fund contributed:

  • £5,000 towards the PV panels
  • £1,985 towards lighting upgrades
  • £4,952 (50 per cent) towards the cavity wall insulation.

The rest was funded by Okehampton College, the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, EDF, the Community Sustainable Energy Programme and the local education authority.


In 2008, Okehampton College's electricity bill came to about £60,000 for the year. The college aims to get all its electricity from renewables in the long term. With these savings the college will be able to offset cuts to education funding.


A bat survey revealed evidence of bat activity in the roofs, so the college had to install the panels outside of the breeding season (June and July). A strategy was put in place so that if bats were discovered during installation a bat rescue organisation was on hand to look after them.

Lessons learnt

Use established companies who have experience working in schools, liaising with staff, and the right sort of public liability insurance. That way, the council will not have to act as an intermediary between the installation company and the school.

PV panels are not worth installing without other measures such as:

  • loft and cavity wall insulation
  • energy efficient lights and appliances
  • communicating the most efficient way to use electricity in the building.


The annual electricity bill has already been halved to £30,000. Total CO2 savings come to 70 tonnes a year.

The PV panels frequently make a quarter of the electricity that the college is using. At the weekends and in the holidays they make more than is being used and feed back into the grid. The college will be paid for the electricity that isn't used through the ‘export tariff' part of the feed-in tariff.

Real-time energy savings - on the Okehampton College website

Local councillor, Christine Marsh says:

"To have a smaller energy bill has got to be good especially for a college because it's so large. The students can see a result as well, so instead of lights burning and computers running all night, they're more conscious of the electricity they're using."

Okehampton's students are choosing related careers. Companies linked to the project come to the school's careers fare - including installers, renewable energy engineers, surveyors, planners, the Environment Agency and bat surveyors.

Keith Webber, who teaches at Okehampton and initiated the project, adds:

"We're training future construction workers through the applied learning programme. Energy efficiency and renewable technology is going to be very relevant for them in the future. And we find more and more of our kids are going on to do degrees with an environmental focus. Some of them are even doing renewable engineering degrees."


Keith Webber
Science Teacher and Community Coordinator
Okehampton College
Mill Road
Okehampton EX20 1PW

Website: kwebb@okehamptoncollege.devon.sch.uk


1 May 2012

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