New technology, smart thinking and a drive to reduce costs enabled one Townsville school to slash its overall electricity consumption by an estimated 34 per cent.

A few years ago, St Anthony's Catholic College in Townsville was awarded federal funding to invest towards building an enclosed, air conditioned multi-purpose covered area - the only problem was that installing a traditional technology in such a space would have put them well over budget!

To work around their limited means, the College collaborated closely with a team of experts to put together a clever and innovative plan for keeping costs down and minimising wastage. Read on to find out more.

The solutions

St Anthony's College began by installing high-efficiency LED lightbulbs. While the initial purchase price of LED lights can be a little higher, these bulbs have significantly longer life spans over their incandescent counterparts, and also use less energy over time. This makes them a very smart long-term decision.

To further offset their lighting costs, St Anthony's then installed a range of 1.5kW solar photovoltaic systems on 10 classrooms. Not only did these help them generate their own electricity, but it also allowed St Anthony's to show students just how great solar power can be.The College also fitted key outdoor and transit areas with motion sensors to ensure that lighting was only activated when it was needed, and not left on unnecessarily. At the same time, they educated staff and students about the importance of switching off lights and appliances when they were not being used.

It's no secret that Townsville, located on Queensland's sunny North-East coast, can be a bit of a furnace in summer. During December, temperatures can easily top 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity, and that can make it tricky to keep school kids attentive and in the right mood to learn.

That's why St Anthony's spent a long time finding the right cooling system to meet their needs. In the end, they opted for a clever central chiller system. Used in conjunction with a building management and control system, this system managed to lower the school's electricity demand by as much 42 per cent.

The best part is that this system was not only reasonably affordable to install, but it was more reliable, quieter, and had lower maintenance costs as well. It also had a longer estimated life span than traditional air conditioning solutions - talk about a terrific long term investment.

But St Anthony's Catholic College didn't stop there. They also looked closely at other areas where they might be able to reduce electricity consumption and lower their monthly utility bills. For example, many schools operate hot water systems 24/7. However, St Anthony's was able to install special timers that operated based on their day-to-day timetable, meaning that drinking fountains and hot water boilers were only activated during class time.

The results

As a result of St Anthony's terrific foresight and initiative, they were able to slash their overall electricity consumption by an estimated 34 per cent, according to an independent auditor's measurement conducted in 2009.

Those costs savings allowed St Anthony's to install their new multi-purpose covered area under budget. Furthermore, it also opened up more funding for them to invest towards ensuring the children of Townsville got the best education possible.

The way that St Anthony's went about this project, and their commitment towards sustainability and energy efficiency, may serve as inspiration to other public organisations in their position.

As Australia's demand for electricity grows, and the pressures we put on the environment increase as well, these sustainable measures will play an important role in ensuring we leave this country in great shape for children like those that attend St Anthony's Catholic College.