Sandvik, has installed 330 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels onto the roof of the Göranssonska Technical High School in Sandviken, Sweden. Students at the school were eager to gain hands on experience of the benefits of sustainable engineering, and called on Sandvik for support. The project could help to inspire the next generation of engineers at the school that bears the name of Sandvik’s founder, Göran Fredrik Göransson.
While the solar panels will provide around 12 per cent of the school’s annual electricity needs, the panels themselves act as a bonus. The main driver for the project is education. In the 2019 Aon Global Risk Management Survey, the failure to attract and retain top talent remained in the top 15 of managerial concerns for the year ahead, as it has been since the inaugural survey in 2007.
The engineering skills shortage is a global concern, and encouraging students to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as core subjects in higher education is key to bridging the gap. Sandvik is a majority owner of the Göranssonska Technical High School and, when students initiated the idea, the company was keen to step up and support their ambition. As a result, Mats W. Lundberg, sustainable business manager at Sandvik Materials Technology, worked with the school’s students to come up with the multi-beneficial project.
To transform the sun’s rays into power, transformers in the school’s attic will convert direct current (DC) electricity from the 100 kilowatt (kW) panels into regular alternating current (AC). Special sockets will allow the school’s more than 200 students and staff to charge their mobile phones solely from the sun, teaching pupils how a sustainable energy source can power their everyday electronics.
But what else can students learn from solar panels? To make the project a more interactive experience, the panels will connect to the schools’ science classes to help introduce even more discussions into the classroom. Students aren’t only learning about the environmental benefits of installing solar panels onto the building’s roof, but they are also beginning to think about the science behind solar energy.
A downloadable app will show how much energy the panels generate in real time. Students can look deeper into the workings of solar power, studying how efficiency changes with ambient temperature, how the physics in a PV actually works, or the cost of the energy created on given day.
“To young minds, sustainability can seem like a buzzword,” explains Lundberg. “I wanted to help develop the student’s existing interest in sustainability, and work on a project that involves science, technology, economics, innovation and more. Students can base their studies on real and live facts, depending on the angle they choose to take.
“It is these close encounters with impactful technology, rather than reading buzzwords on the internet, that enable young people to truly understand the opportunities and challenges involved in creating a sustainable world.”
Inaugurated in spring 2020, the PV project is already having an impact on Göranssonska’s students. One pupil, Moa Karlsson, explains his impression so far, commenting that “there is so much talk about sustainability, and talk is good, but you want to work with it, live it. That is the best way to learn.”
If we’re going to inspire the next generation of sustainable engineers, it’s time to start putting buzzwords into action. Göranssonska’s solar panels will achieve far more than charging mobile phones, and we may see the local student’s beginning their careers in Sandvik’s hometown within the decade.
To learn more about Sandvik’s own sustainability goals, visit the website.