Princes Hill Primary School commenced the Carbon Sink Project as a 5-Star Sustainable School under the previous AuSSI (now Resource Smart) framework.

During this previous 3-year project, curriculum and educational dimensions had been at the forefront of PHPS’s approach and development of school-wide sustainable practices, where a whole school curriculum focus had been undertaken to stimulate, launch and engage change. An extremely successful whole school Sustainable-Arts Festival was held during the 2006 school year that lead to many significant environmental outcomes and the engagement of transformative action for students, staff and the wider community. This included strong community partnerships with environmental groups and the collegiality established through the AuSSI schools’ network alongside CERES’s leadership and guidance.

Princes Hill Primary School received notification of a successful grant application to the Solar in Schools program during the 2008 school year and prior to the Carbon Sink project commencing. With similar aims to reduce energy and invest in green technology, the Solar in School submission therefore came to be the main framework and driver for us at school, while continuing to implement and revise sustainable practices and reduced energy and resource use through the school’s development of their Carbon Sink Action Plan devised in term 1, 2009.

The goal in this initial period was to apply to the National Solar in Schools Program (NSSP) and determine the better energy savings to be made – increasing the proposed 4-kilowatt system and capacity to a 6-kilowatt system to generate more solar power or review the existing building for alternative energy savings to be made through retrofit and passive solar design alongside a 4-kilowatt system. At the time when quotes were being sought, a 4-kilowatt system translated to a 14% energy saving from the mains electricity supplies with 10% of mains power derived through Green Power.

The new Principal, Esme Capp, and Assistance Principal, Gayle Lofhelm, instigated changes to the new building project and considerations to energy and design of the architectural plans. These changes included an automatic shut-down system linked to the mains electricity in the new 3/4 and Administration Building and installing fans in the old Red Brick Building to circulate air. All fluorescent lighting was also upgraded to T5s and all new building work compiled with energy guidelines relating to insulation and lighting with T5s across all permanent buildings on site. Sensor lights were also fitted, automatic exhausts fans in new bathrooms, a timer unit installed on the staffroom hot water urn, guttering aligned to facilitate tank to toilet system and a new photocopier purchased with “energy saver” function.

In the 1st Milestone of the Carbon Sink Program, we were able the school to call on Mark Smith (Sunrise Energy) to conduct an updated energy audit and recommendations for the buildings on site. This occurred in December, 2008. With major building works underway, finding suitable areas to install retrofit features was one of the issues we faced and the building work continued to be a dominant factor throughout the duration of the project.

With an expression of interest submitted to the NSSP, the school received notification that the application had been placed in the wait list during the last week of the 2008 school year. At this time, parent representatives and staff considered options for the placement of the solar panels. Because of the building construction, limited options were available. At this time, the new Library and Arts complex was one of the few options available, however its low roof and easy external access meant security was not optimal given the increased vandalism and theft at school during the first phase of building during the 2007 school year.

At the beginning of the 2009 school year (Milestone 2), PHPS’s teaching staff participated in a full-day Professional Development session with Mark Smith including reviewing the school’s energy usage, existing sustainable practices, and profiling both the aims and objectives of the Carbon Sink Project, before working on the development of curriculum documents for the whole school focus on alternative energy contained in the Solar in Schools application. At this point in time, the school anticipated that NSSP grant funding would become available in the upcoming months. This effectively put us on hold with the scheduled planning of our whole school inquiry until further indications and notices were received. Under the submission, the proposal was that students would first learn about alternative energy sources, forms of generative power and the environmental impacts of different types, leading to the installation of the photovoltaic system towards the end of the term’s inquiry. The term’s inquiry was to end with a Solar Expo, profiling students’ learning as well as the school’s reduced energy needs from the installment of the solar panels, communicating, profiling and raising awareness of alternative energy to the wider community. Part of students’ learning would occur through the new solar systems where students would view the school’s electricity data on SETS over a five year period to determine the environmental savings made before and after installation.

As it happened, there were significant delays with the NSSP funding; each step closer and new update from the federal government required revised quotations from installers to validate the quotation terms, and legislative changes occurred firstly when the general public rebate was withdrawn, to the economic downturn (forcing the prices of panels to rise) and during the final last leg of the process, changes to the monitoring system and components required by schools.

With planning and organisation under way, the whole school Alternative Energy & Sustainability focus did finally occur in Term 3, 2008 without the system’s installation.

This aspect of coordinating the installation and planned curriculum focus as well as consider the most optimal time and term in the school year to demonstrate the ‘power of solar’ were extremely frustrating and tedious given the time required to obtain quotes. In our case, teaching staff, the leadership and financial management, the parents involved in supporting the submission process, as well as the local business and installer we subsequently engaged to complete the work were all on hold. As it was, it wasn’t until Term 2, 2010 that the system was finally installed.

Along with the SiS and NSSP grants that funded the photovoltaic system, PHPS has had major issues with our electricity supplier. The location of the meter prior to the building renovations were in internal to the two main buildings and annual scheduled readings arranged during the January school holiday period. This has meant that collating and analysing trends on the school’s electricity data on our SETS account has been far than straight forward. The school is currently seeking reimbursement from overpayments made to TRU Energy over the past 5 years.

The following dot points provide an overview of the milestones reached during the 18 month project in 3 main areas of Administrative/Operational; JSC and Student Leadership and Curriculum. The last section contains data analysis and tables profiling some of the trends in energy usage between the 2004 – 2009 school years.


  • Update of SETS Baseline Data and development of Carbon Sink Action Plans
  • Review and updating policy documents and guidelines to support these policies (including Environment, Waste, Energy & Green Procurement)
  • Review of school policy and Bazaar – working on efforts to improve resource use, reduce environmental impact and align school policies with practices (for instance: “collect and wash” program rather than disposals, water bottles, improve waste management, etc)
  • Continuation of NSSP claims process with Principal, Assistant Principal, Staff & Parent Reps for Photovoltaic and installation of skylights in 5/6 complex, and communication with SV for Solar in Schools program and solar contractors
  • Architects meeting with building contractors to revise plans for electrical wiring and shutdown procedures
  • Purchasing of recycled paper for printers and photocopier
  • Sustainability & Environment Staff Committee – review of existing environmental policies and development of Green Procurement policy and development of guidelines sheets for staff that align policy to practices (ie shut down procedures, thermostat settings, interactive whiteboards, etc)
  • Delivery/staff briefing by Sustainability and Environment Committee prior to final 6 months of the project
  • Continuing to implement existing environmental initiatives (Waste & Water: Rubbish free lunches, grey water recycling, VISY recycled paper, composting, glass/plastic curb-side collection, mobile phones and corks, etc)
  • Continuing to liaise with architect, builders, plumbers and electricians on new building design to make more energy efficient (T5 lighting, removal of air-conditioners and means to maximize air circulation, automatic timers on heating units and hot/cold water units, lighting sensors in main staff areas, automatic exhausts in bathrooms, new photocopier, guttering aligned for rainwater tank-toilet system ).
  • Completing administrative reports for NSSP and Solar in Schools program

JSC & Student Leadership:

  • PHPS Earth Hour and continuing to try to cut down our energy use at school
  • Planting at Royal Park during Arbor Week (Serco)
  • JSC Student Leadership program – 350 campaign, Etiko Soccer balls, Don’t Palm us Off (supermarket palm oil & orangutan protection campaign)
  • Student Leadership & JSC Program (including community partnerships with: – World Vision – African village; Visy/Footy Clinic; Replas plastic & outdoor furniture)
  • JSC Environment & Sustainability Leadership Team (Auditing of Bins, Lesson plans to Prep-2 classes, etc)
  • Energy/Auditing Kits in JSC Environment & Sustainability Group
  • 5/6 Grounds & Facilities Committee & 3-6 Gardening Club (weeding/mulching/watering)
  • Serco – Royal Park Planting (Arbor Week) with 1/2s JSC Reps and 5/6 Environment & Sustainability Committee

Curriculum Focus

  • Whole School focus on Sustainability & Alternative Energy, including a 5/6 Wearable Arts Show a combined Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Italian Project, including:

– 5/6 Environmental Learning focus Workshop (Critical Literacy: Brown Coal/Green Coal; Greenhouse Effect; Wind Power & Kites; Biomass; Hydro & Wave power)

– Grade 5/6s analysis of the school’s resource and energy data over a 5-year period on SETS

– 5/6 homework task to gather energy data from home and open invitation to parent community to complete Fossil Fuel Diet and Origin Energy website calculator

– 5/6 students’ individual learning projects based on alternative energy; global warming; sustainable building design/technology; film/animation projects, etc.

– Harmonic Energy Guest speaker (Solar/Photovoltaic units and Passive Solar House design)

– Melbourne University – Scientist in Schools Program (Chris Manzie) Engineer and technotronics (Car/vehicle technology/energy workshop)

  • Tuesday Lunchtime Bike Club (Term 1 & 4)
  • Participating in Walk/Ride to School Days (all year)
  • Weeding/environment & wildlife program at 5/6 Camp in Anglesea
  • Consultation with parent for “350 Campaign” – whole school postcard campaign
  • Future Shoots PD for 2 staff members and 12 student submissions
  • Eleven students, three staff members coordinating and participating in the Carbon Sink Student Conference at the end of project, 4th term, 2008
  • Reusing paper and cardboard through Play & Project base curriculum
  • Energy shut down procedures and monitors


One of the most significant challenges for Princes Hill Primary School throughout this two-year project has been the huge impact of building works. As well as impacting on the school grounds and facilities, precedence has been on managing the building project leaving less time and human resources to develop aspects of the Carbon Sink Project.

Significant also was the delays with NSSP grant funding for photovoltaic systems and passive solar technology leading to projected wind-falls from these initiatives only in future greenhouse gas targets and off-sets.

Currently, we are in negotiations with TRU Energy to have credits reimbursed and following on from this, to rectify issues with our electricity and gas usage.

Next year, Harmonic Energy, the company the school used to install the photovoltaic system will run training session with a group of year 5/6 students so that they can provide monthly reports in our school newsletter. We are also currently looking at ways to display the data logger and displays generated yields for the community and the general public.

Now that the building work is complete, our school priorities include Masterplans for the school grounds to again focus attention on the development and promotion of biodiversity and outdoor learning areas.

By Princes Hill Primary School|2017-11-06T17:20:29+10:00April 27th, 2013|0 Comments