Staying warm at school greener after upgrade

Warm and toasty . . . Checking out Waikaka Primary SchoolÂ’s new environmentally friendly wood pellet boiler are pupils (from left) Ranger Hamilton (10), Skyla Matthews and Jacko Gardyne. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

Waikaka Primary School is among the first in the country to benefit from a $55 million school coal boiler replacement programme.

The government scheme funded the replacement of the school’s old coal boiler with a new more environmentally friendly wood pellet boiler.

Principal Bronwyn McCall said it was a cleaner way of heating the school.

“We’re burning clean energy… A couple times during the winter season we just need to empty the ashes out, but because it’s wood ash we can put it straight on our gardens so it means that we’re not producing waste and we can get rid of it in an environmentally friendly way.”

The whole process was automated and the boiler could even be controlled from her smartphone.

“It’s easier to look after. I don’t need a boiler person.

“That frees up some manpower hours.”

It would also kick in automatically if the school got too cold, which would be especially helpful during the school holidays to stop the pipes from bursting, she said.

When the school was running low on wood pellets, a notification would be sent to its supplier automatically and “more will just arrive”.

“To be able to get decent heat in the classroom during the winter time will also be really good,” Ms McCall said.

“For the last few years with the coal boiler we haven’t been able to get decent coal and that definitely makes a difference to the temperature in the classroom. If we can find decent coal, it’s at an increased price.”

The school did get quite cold at times and there were even afternoons when staff had needed to run the boiler, she said.

“We’re a little bit of a microclimate,” Ms McCall said.

“It’s a little bit different from Gore. We’re often a couple of degrees cooler in the wintertime.”

She was very happy her school had been selected for the programme.

The school had planned to replace the boiler anyway, and now the property money that had been put aside could be used on other projects.

Pukerau School was also selected for the programme and recently had its coal boiler replaced with a wood pellet boiler as well.

Ministry of Education infrastructure and digital leader Scott Evans said the two schools were chosen based on the condition of their old coal boilers.

“We are in the process of tendering for the replacement of coal boilers at other schools.”

The ministry hoped to have 93 coal boilers at 83 schools replaced with low-carbon alternatives by July next year, and the plan was to phase out all remaining school coal boilers by 2025.