Zadar school marks the arrival of spring with "solar sunflower"

Mar 21, 2013

Zadar schoolkids plant sunflowers / Photo by: Inia Herenčić

The Šimun Kožičić Benja Primary School in Zadar today became the first of ten schools in Croatia to launch a solar tracker – a solar-powered device that follows the the sun during the day like a sunflower – under a HRK 400,000 project funded by Hrvatski Telekom and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Each "solar sunflower" will generate modest amounts of electricity and also serve as a tool for students to learn about the benefits of renewable energy. Similar devices are being installed at schools in Dubrovnik, Hvar, Zadar, Kaštel Lukšić, Krk, Pula, Križevci, Zagreb, Ivanić-Grad and Vukovar. Education on renewable energy will be provided at the ten schools by the DOOR Association and the Eko Kvarner NGO.

"The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones but rather because we invented better technologies. In the same way, the age of fossil fuels needs now to give way to the age of renewable energy," said UNDP Project Development Specialist Robert Pašičko. "This process starts with people, education and information. This project aims to give young people a practical understanding of how renewable energy sources can help create a green economy, new jobs and a cleaner environment."

"Sustainability guides all our activities, since we believe that true progress can only happen when we respect both people and the planet," explained Pero Čosić, Head of Business Sales for Hrvatski Telekom. "In funding the solar sunflowers, our aim is to help children to understand from an early age the future consequences of their present actions. Turning to the Sun and contributing to cleaner air by harnessing all the benefits of rapid technological progress is a winning combination."

The new solar photovoltaic systems will reduce each school's electricity bill by HRK 2,000 per year for the next 25 years. Students will be able to monitor the amount of electricity produced through an online system that will provide data on an hourly, daily, monthly and annual basis. Production at one school can be compared with that at other schools. Reductions in CO2 emissions will also be monitored. Once all the systems are up and running, more than 1,000 pupils will receive training in solar energy every year. The systems will also give the schools a basis to seek future eligibility to feed the electricity they produce into the grid and thus earn income from the sale of electric power.

"Installing a solar sunflower in our yard means a lot for both our students and their teachers. They will gain first-hand knowledge and values and awareness about renewable energy sources," said Marko Marin, Principal of Šimun Kožičić Benja Primary School. "Students will learn responsible behavior towards natural resources, which is an investment in our future. Through the school curriculum, students will learn through practical experience how best to use the Sun's energy."

Zadar was a logical choice as the first town for a "solar sunflower," as it is also home to the Solar Education Center created by Zadar County and UNDP in 2011 to encourage wider use of renewable energy and provide training in environmentally friendly "green jobs." Alongside training courses, the Solar Education Center hosts an energy efficiency information center that provides citizens with free information, including on the advantages and costs of solar systems, the technologies available on the Croatian market and the incentive schemes available to promote their installation.