With a visionary pilot project in three high schools, Lisbon hopes to be one of the first cities in the world to create carbon neutral schools.
The Smart Urban Energies for Schools project began in 2008 when Parque Escolar, in of the Portuguese Ministry of Education, noticed that recently renovated schools were using a lot of energy. So the government enlisted the help of international companies to try to make them more efficient.
First, engineers with the company Cisco developed a unique system that allows staff to easily manage the energy consumption of IT devices in their schools. They can program policies depending on schedule and computer use.
“The interesting part is that it’s not very complex and it’s not very technological, which means that it can be used as part of a day-to-day management of the school,” said Carla Pedro, the main project lead for Cisco Systems.
This part of the project is already saving the schools 5% in overall energy costs. The next step, which is currently being tested with Schneider Electric, will integrate the computer monitoring into a system that tracks 90% of all energy usage: in IT, lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling.
But school officials want to do more than just cut power usage. They also want to make schools sources of renewable energy. The plan is to connect the energy produced through the schools’ photovoltaic panels and mini wind turbines to Lisbon’s power grid. Electricity produced when the school doesn’t need it will be sent to power the city.
The pilot project hopes to eventually serve as a blueprint that can be applied in other schools in cities across the world. It has already attracted international interest from the European Commission, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.
In addition, the project has an educational side to it. All data is made available to the teachers and they are encouraged to actively involve their students in the project and teach them about green energy awareness.
As Carla Pedro says, “Ideally the end goal is to be able to hand over to the kids all this; that their schools are better managed, but also that they can do other things with this type of material. Why not some application for laptops or iphones? I think the sky’s the limit.”