Southland school proposes student-run energy park

Issue: Volume 98, Number 4

Posted: 7 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9rx1

Fiordland College has created a proposal for a park which integrates three local energy sources with culturally inspired sculptures.

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Fiordland College’s outdoor recreation skills class.

Nestled on the edge of Fiordland National Park and Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage site, Fiordland College is located in the small rural town of Te Anau.

The school’s goal is to foster students who instinctively act sustainably and it encourages students to interact frequently with the natural environment that surrounds them.

Recently, students and staff from the school put together a proposal to build an energy park combining functionality with art. Teacher Dr Sue Peoples says the aim was to reduce the school’s ecological footprint while enhancing environmental knowledge and awareness.

“It is very important to us as we aim to reduce our reliance on non-renewable energy sources by heating our school with energy generated on the premises and increase student/community awareness of sustainable energy generation,”
she says.

The designs for the energy park, named Project Whitiki te Huarere, would see the park harness each of the big three energy sources in Fiordland: wind, rain, sun.

Students were involved in formative discussions and were responsible for the planning, directing and presentation of the video proposal, which was entered into the international Zayed Sustainability Prize and was named as a finalist.

Although Fiordland College did not receive a placing in the competition, it is engaging with its community to seek further assistance so the project can be realised.

Many students in Te Anau already engage in pest control on the Kepler Track. Living on a hydro lake has also heightened their awareness of renewable energy generation.

“Students need to learn to live smarter in a world where the words ‘finite resources’ are increasingly used,” Sue says.

“In 2017, nine subject areas included environmental sustainability content. Our aim is for all subjects at all levels to include this.”

The park would support students in many areas of the curriculum, Sue says, and help develop technical and vocational skills to assist students to acquire jobs.

What would Whitiki te Huarere look like?

By exploring the shapes in the natural local environment, the school recognised that the spiral shape exhibited by an unfurling fern dominates our native bush. The koru represents new life, growth, strength and peace and has inspired how Project Whitiki te Huarere has evolved.

  • The Centre of Environmental Excellence park would house various installations, including solar panels, mini turbines and mini hydro systems, all designed to showcase the three renewable energy sources.
  • The park would be open to all visitors and show a range of display boards and video loops on sustainability, our environment, and renewable energy generation. These would be developed by students and other groups, such as the Department of Conservation.
  • A range of solar installations, including solar trees and solar murals, as well as traditional solar panels, would harness solar energy.
  • The solar murals would be positioned on three separate frames and student art would be translated onto film, which would then be applied to the solar modules.
  • One main 3.5kW turbine (peak power 4.2kW) would be installed in the energy park.
  • Two 3m tall koru wind sculptures would each house a smaller wind turbine to generate energy.
  • Two mini hydro stations would be installed in spouting systems from buildings with large runoffs. One would be located on the tallest school building, where water velocity generated by gravity would drive the turbines. The other hydro station would be located on the Centre of Environmental Excellence.
  • The hydro stations would include transparent spouting so students could see the hydro generation in action.
  • The section of land where the Energy Park is proposed has a 100m perimeter fence line running parallel to State Highway 94. One million tourists pass annually on the way to Milford Sound.
  • The final design has the potential to generate at least 28,000 kWh per year.

Students speak:

Why we need to sustain the environment

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Maddie, Year 9, volunteers for a bird sanctuary.

Maddie Wilson, Year 9

I love volunteering for DOC and working at the bird sanctuary. Our native birds are awesome. It is important that we adopt programmes in sustainability to ensure they all survive.

Esther Cole, Year 11

I’m in a learning programme for girls at school. I went to the Manapouri Power Station to understand how power is being generated sustainably via the hydro power station.

Keagan Maynard, Year 12

Some of my time is spent volunteering down at our local bird sanctuary. Some of our native birds are under threat from predators and we want to eradicate them.

Sophie Willans, Year 9

I live on a farm and am surrounded by nature so I really enjoy interacting with plants and animals. It is important for the natural world to be sustained and we also learn about that at school as well.

Quinn Holland, Year 11

I am passionate about the environment and I have been a Youth Council Member for the Invercargill City Council ensuring the local Te Anau environment is sustained for future generations.

Will Hamilton, Year 9

I love skiing in the mountains. I need to make sure our environment is maintained so I can carry on skiing.

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An artist’s interpretation of the park.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:15 am, 7 March 2019

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