Over a hundred students from schools across Copeland came together at NuGen’s Bright Sparks Schools’ Energy Conference last week.
Year 10 and 11 students from Whitehaven Academy, St Benedict’s and Millom School have spent the last academic year working on projects focused around low-carbon electricity – linked to science, technology, engineering and maths (or STEM) subjects.
Bright Sparks from the three schools were asked to think about how they would develop low-carbon electricity generation projects in the county, looking at the benefits and impacts of three energy generation technology types – nuclear, solar and tidal.
The students presented their findings in a mini-consultation event with the overall winner, selected by a panel of independent judges, coming from Whitehaven Academy for their proposals for a tidal ‘hydropower’ station in the Solway Firth.
During the last school year, teams of Bright Sparks went off to find opportunities for increasing energy efficiency at their own schools, looking for ways to reduce electricity bills and help tackle carbon emissions. Some of the ideas included fitting automatic light switches, identifying energy savings from turning off plant and equipment when not in use and looking for low-energy alternatives.
All three schools identified annual savings of more than £10,000 per year, with Millom School’s students being recognised and rewarded for their detailed investigations and carefully presented suggestions on how to implement the improvements. Each school were presented with a cheque for £2,000 to implement the energy efficiency ideas.
NuGen’s John Male, Head of Training and Qualifications, was overwhelmed by the positive reaction from the schools: “The Schools Energy Conference is the culmination of a whole year of hard work by the students. We’ve spent a lot of time in the three schools, helping them understand what goes into planning and developing new energy infrastructure and that how we use energy has an impact on the environment.
“The students have a real passion for the subject and that’s what we’re trying to encourage… It’s that passion for science and energy that will enthuse this generation to grasp the career opportunities which will come with a new nuclear power station at Moorside.”
Copeland’s Mayor, Mike Starkie, has been closely involved with the Bright Sparks initiative since it was launched. He said: “Bright Sparks is the start of a major opportunity for all the young people of West Cumbria. The school children approached this with such drive and innovation – it’s encouraging to know that we have such bright sparks in our midst. Who knows what amazing projects and achievements they will bring to our area in the future. I congratulate each one of them.”