May 22, 2019 6:35 pm

East London high school to become Canada’s first carbon-neutral school

An electric vehicle sits parked outside John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in east London.

Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

John Paul II Catholic Secondary School (JPII) is poised to be a national leader in renewable energy.

Officials with the east London school announced on Wednesday that JPII would become Canada’s first carbon-neutral school.

The $9.7 million project will make JPII completely self-sufficient, allowing the school to supply all of its own energy needs.

Nearly half the project will be funded by the federal government through Natural Resources Canada. It will be designed, built, operated and owned by Ameresco, a company that specializes in clean, renewable energy.

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An energy microgrid, geothermal heating and cooling and a vast array of solar panels will help the school reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions to nearly zero. The only natural gas used in the building will be for the school’s science labs and kitchen equipment.

The project will also bring about two electric vehicle charging stations.

JPII principal Peter Cassidy described the project as “kind of a neat thing to be involved with,” adding that he has a background in architectural technology along with an interest in environmental issues.

“What better place to teach kids about some of the environmental issues that they’re going to face in their futures by hosting this project here.”

The project’s announcement garnered the praise of grade 10 JPII student Sarah Bedor. Bedor told 980 CFPL her excitement is visibly shared among her fellow students.

“Even when there was the [announcement], you could see all the students piling up,” said Bedor, who also expressed pride in JPII’s potential to become a national leader in carbon neutral-secondary schools.

“We’re the first step. It’s such a huge thing for everyone, not just us.”

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Fellow 10th grader Lewis Roseberry held similar delight, adding that he’s excited to see the technological side of things.

“Solar panels. It’s kind of a new thing, but it’s also been around for a long time… but to be a part of it is amazing,” Roseberry said.

“For a lot of people, it’s also just ‘look at this new fancy tech we have,’ and to have Tesla involved as well is insane.”

Students from John Paul II Catholic Secondary School stand near digital renderings of the school’s carbon neutral plans. From left to right: Zach Caadorna, Lewis Roseberry, Sarah Bedor, Desiree Prudhomme and Ievana Joseph-Philip.

Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

The project is slated for completion by late 2020 and is expected to be fully commissioned in early 2021.

A statement from JPII says it hopes to become a showcase model for school boards across Canada and prove that a carbon-free school can be economically viable.

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