Pupils are installing a solar power system on the roof of their gym

Today I feel a little bit like the environmental activist Greta Thunberg. It may not be Friday, and I’m not out on strike, but I am doing something for the climate at a dizzying height. I’m installing a solar power system on the roof

Magalie Terre

It’s nine o'clock in the morning, and the pupils of Grenchen secondary school have already gathered in front of the gym. I go and find Angela, the head of the energy education project “Each cell counts – schools generate solar power.” She gives me a helmet, some gloves and some brief instructions. Feeling a little bit weak at the knees, I climb a steep set of scaffolding steps onto the flat roof of the gym. I’m glad I’ve got my hiking boots on, which give me a little bit of grip. At the top, I see two pupils are already installing solar panels under expert guidance. The panels are carefully lined up on prepared aluminium frames, screwed on and hooked up. I also muck in, shifting solar panels one by one. 320 panels in total need to be put in. Henä, from the installation company Energy Optimizer, watches me connect the panels over my shoulder. It’s very important to be careful as the electricity is already flowing. Once the solar power system is up and running, it generates energy of 95,000 kWh a year. This is enough to meet nearly 90 percent of the energy demand for three school buildings in Grenchen. A household of four people consumes around 3,500 kWh a year. The entire system costs 150,000 francs, and is funded by the Grenchen electricity network (SWG).

On the left: the solar power system from above.
(Copyright: foto@joelschweizer.ch)

Solar power at school

The brains behind the “Each cell counts – schools generate solar power!” initiative is the climate protection organization “myblueplanet”, with its “Climate School” programme. Their goal is to bring the subject of climate change reversal and energy revolution to the classroom, and to make it truly tangible for the pupils. Grenchen secondary school has been part of the two-year project since 2017, sporting the motto “Grenchen goes solar”. Each year, the school delves into in one of four areas: energy, mobility, resources and nutrition. After my work on the roof, I want to find out more about energy and join a group of pupils who are taking a course on the subject: how much energy do domestic appliances consume? What is renewable and non-renewable energy? We all pay close attention, and can even take part in small electricity experiments, such as powering a hair dryer with solar energy. The teacher then hands out a questionnaire with seven questions on solar power. I join two girls who answer their questions in no time at all, whilst the group of girls next to us has a bit of trouble coming up with the right answers. Giggling, they take out their mobile phones and do a Google search. Luckily, the teacher doesn’t seem them.

Luca, Lukas, Sarah, Sheilah and Altina on the gym roof in Grenchen. (Copyright: foto@joelschweizer.ch)

Swiss Post goes solar

As part of its “pro clima – We’re acting now” sustainability programme, Swiss Post supports the energy education project run by the climate protection organization myblueplanet. This is one of many projects Swiss Post is involved in to promote renewable energy. Swiss Post is also at the forefront when it comes to solar power. It operates some of Switzerland’s largest photovoltaic systems on the roofs of its letter and parcel centers.

written by

Magalie Terre