A team of three pupils from Eton College have fought off competition from over 516 schools across the globe to become finalists in The Earth Prize 2022 for their Collaborative Schools Solar Project.

The Earth Prize is an environmental sustainability competition for teenage students across the globe. The competition recognises students and schools with the best solutions to accelerate positive change towards environmental sustainability.

Eton’s team of finalists (Cosmo Le B, Titus M and Merritt F) want to help the developing world make technological advances, particularly with respect to energy use. Their team was selected as finalists for The Earth Prize thanks to their Collaborative Schools Solar Project (CCSP), which uses solar power as the energy source for school buildings with the aim of making a great impact on the use of non-renewable energy and emissions.

On 25 March 2022, either Eton College or one of the nine other schools to reach the final will be selected by The Earth Prize adjudicating panel as the winner. Over 650 teams from 516 schools representing over 114 countries and territories have taken part. Seven teams of pupils from Eton College entered in September 2021, with four of these teams making it as far as the Earth Prize Scholars pool – including Eton’s team of finalists. Eton College is the only school with more than two teams to make it that far in the competition.

Solar panels produce almost 5% of electricity in the United Kingdom, but solar energy produces relatively little energy in the developing world. The Collaborative Schools Solar Project is a ground-breaking effort put together by Eton’s pupils for circumventing for-profit solar arrays that do not benefit the local communities. The CCSP creates an international network of schools, local policymakers, non-governmental organisations and philanthropists who will work together to fundraise and catalyse behavioural change. The focus for this is around decarbonising energy consumption in schools worldwide that would otherwise be unable to afford a photovoltaic array.

Merritt F was delighted to share that, “The Earth Prize has been a great way to raise awareness of a project that we want to see to fruition – a new model for supporting energy independence for schools in disadvantaged communities, both locally and globally. The application process for this prize has encouraged us to focus on engaging with the local community around the school, as well as how to share the success of the pilot project at three schools so the concept can be rolled out more widely for greater impact.

“We look forward to the final phase, during which we will discuss our project with people experienced in implementing environmental projects – the Earth Prize mentors and ambassadors.  We are thrilled and honoured to be able to get their feedback on our project as we finalise our concept.”

Eton’s finalists believe their pilot project is easily scalable and a proof of concept. It will fundraise £50,000 for an 18.5kWp installation on Altwood Church of England School, a state school on the outskirts of Maidenhead, United Kingdom, and a 25kW installation on KwaThintwa School for the Deaf in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Eton’s pupils chose Altwood Church of England School because, with no existing photovoltaic installation but significant flat roof space, they felt this was where the project could make the biggest difference. It will be decarbonising the school’s energy supply and catalysing behavioural change towards net zero, partnered with an intensive community engagement plan.

Mademoiselle Herbommez, one of the Masters-in-Charge of Eton’s Environment Society, added, “When I see the energy and strength the boys put in such an innovative and selfless project, I am very hopeful about our future. I have seen the project develop from the start and I have witnessed the many hurdles the boys faced. The recognition and support from The Earth Prize is very well-deserved and I wish the boys the best of luck.”

To support the installation of solar panels in UK and South African schools, Eton’s team of finalists have set up a Just Giving page.