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A unique experiment in classroom learning will be officially launched on Monday (23rd May) by Jim Wallace, Scotland's Deputy First Minister

Children at an Aberdeen school will be able to monitor the effectiveness of the UK's largest solar energy system which has been installed to heat the swimming pool at their school, the Bridge of Don Academy. The project will provide a unique lesson in renewable energy for pupils at the Academy.

The 180 square meter installation will cover the entire roof of the pool with 60 evacuated tube solar panels. Despite Aberdeen being further north than Moscow, Aberdeen City Council is one of a number of local authorities turning to solar heating for swimming pools.

To help pupils at the Academy learn about renewable energy and understand how solar heating works, Romay Solar Heating, the specialist company installing the system is supplying a large scale digital display for the pupils to see how much energy is being produced by the new system. There will also be a cable feed to the school's IT department so that the effect of the energy collected can be seen on the school's computers for teaching purposes.

Tony Book, Managing Director of Riomay Solar Heating, is also Vice Chairman of the International Solar Energy Society and a member of the World Renewable Energy Network (WREN). A keen campaigner for renewable energy, Mr Book says the Aberdeen project could be replicated in other schools around the UK.

“We know from experience at a school in Poland, where we did a similar educational exercise, that children are very switched on to global environmental issues. Being able to monitor how energy is being produced from the sun and converted into heating really grabs their attention.” he says. Mr Book has also worked with the school's Media Studies pupils to produce a short video of the installation and the solar energy process.

Although based on the South Coast of England, Riomay has been responsible for solar installations on a number of major development and regeneration sites around the UK and Europe. Recent projects include Gatwick Airport, Windsor Castle, HM Cardiff Prison, Fife Council, Habinteg (Ulster) Housing Association and a secondary school in Warsaw. Riomay is currently working with several other schools and colleges and Tony Book is keen to encourage them to replicate the Aberdeen classroom experience.

Pool Costs
The pool running costs are estimated to be in the region of £10,000 to £12,000 per annum.

The roof construction of the swimming pool is timber deck and as such is most suited to the chosen design, as that allows the collectors to be flat mounted causing no uplift wind loading.

Estimated annual energy output of Solar Collectors: 160,000 kWh
Annual Savings based on present gas contract: £1840
Annual reduction in CO2 emissions: 30 tonnes/annum

PHOTOCALL: 3.15 p.m. Monday 23rd May 2005 at Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen.. Two cherry pickers are being provided to lift Councillor Kate Dean and Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace up level with the roof. The second cherry picker is available for Photographers by prior arrangement. For further information and for a copy of the school's video of the project please contact Chris Lee on 01323 831829 or email

Technical notes
There are two main types of solar panel. Some convert sunlight into electricity, while others convert it into heat. Riomay Suntubes generate heat and use that heat to raise the initial temperature of a hot water system.

Riomay Suntubes are an advanced form of evacuated tube collector. Each panel has six high transmittance glass tubes which are virtually transparent to solar energy. Inside each tube a selective coating on the absorber plate maximises the solar energy absorbed and minimizes heat energy loss by radiation. Each tube is evacuated, the resultant vacuum virtually eliminating any heat loss by convection or conduction.

Riomay Suntube panels use an indirect system to heat water. A heat transfer fluid, a solution of water and non-toxic anti-freeze, absorbs heat as it passes through the Suntube. It is pumped to a heat exchanger in the hot water tank where the heat passes into the water. The heat transfer fluid is them pumped back to the solar panel.

An electronic device, which controls the pump, detects the difference in temperature between the solar panel and the hot water. When the temperature in the panel is lower than the temperature in the tank, the system remains on standby. When the sun raises the temperature in the panel to 4oC higher than the temperature in the tank, the differential temperature controller switches on the pump.

Photograph attached:
1 Owners of domestic pools have long recognised the effectiveness of Riomay solar panels in heating their pool.
2 Riomay's pergola-mounted solar panel on a domestic pool was the inspiration for Bridgenorth Council's pool at Highley.

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