Emerald Marist College

Emerald Marist College

Catholic school goes solar to beat rising power bills – and saves big

  Emerald Marist College was founded in 1996 and has since grown into a progressive, co-educational secondary college with over 570 students. The Catholic college is located three hours west of Rockhampton in the Central Highlands and draws students from Emerald and the surrounding rural areas including many rural properties. Emerald Marist College is a member of the national body of Marist Schools Australia (MSA). The world-wide Marist Education movement dates back to the pedagogical principles of its 19th Century founder, Saint Marcellin Champagnat, and is present in over 80 countries around the world today. While being a Catholic school, the Marist College offers its relevant and diverse curriculum to all who share the ethics and ideals of the community it serves. School fees are reasonable to minimise financial barriers to enrolment. Emerald Marist College prides itself on its passionate and professional staff and excellent facilities, designed to foster the holistic development of each student. Emerald Marist College’s offers a variety of co-curricular activities and has earned itself an excellent reputation through its students sporting, cultural, community, and spiritual achievements.

Business Problem

Due to air-conditioning loads, Emerald Marist College experiences a sharp increase in electricity consumption during the summer months. This increase in consumption can be as high 300% and adds significant pressure to the financial viability of urban and regional schools around the country. On top of the fluctuating electricity demand energy prices have been exploding for the last decade, especially in regional Queensland where there are less market competition and higher peak demand charges. Emerald Marist College was also in need of a full energy efficiency overhaul, being fitted with traditional fluoro lighting, adding valuable dollars to their electricity bill. The college also subscribes to strong ecological and sustainable values and was wishing to decrease its impact on the environment.

Emerald Marist College

Emerald Marist College

The Solution

In January 2016, we installed 100 kW of solar PV across several roofs at Emerald Marist College. Simultaneously, our in-house LED lighting specialist upgraded all lights to efficient, modern LEDs, a move which instantly reduced electricity consumption by up to 25%. The customer elected to go with Q CELLS solar modules, which are some of our top-of-the-range panels, guaranteeing reliable performance, as well as highest efficiency and output. The panels are matched with a range of three-phase string inverters by one of the most well-known and trusted brands in solar PV, ABB. Our consultation process included a full assessment of the school’s energy consumption profile and electricity bills, a detailed site inspection, and energy audits. GEM Energy’s mantra is to determine exactly where and when our customers are using electricity before we design and install their solar power plants. By consulting closely with the college’s managerial team, we were able to get a clear idea of expectations around both budget and time frame.

Financial Data:

System cost: $165 000 ex GST

Financed privately

Electricity cost savings: $40 000+ per annum

Electricity consumption reduction: 30%

Payback: 3.2 years, cash-flow positive from the first quarter



System Size: 100kW

Major system components:

376 x Q-Cells Q.PRO-G4 265w

2 x ABB TRIO 27.6 kW

1 X ABB TRIO 20 kW

1 X ABB PVI 10 kW

Full LED lighting upgrade

System type: zero export, 3-phase


The solar PV system at Emerald Marist College has been running very well and according to expectations, decreasing the school’s electricity consumption by 30%. As part of our Operations and Maintenance Service, we have kept a close eye on the solar power plant to ensure it is running at full capacity at all times.

The solar investment was cash flow positive from the first quarter, meaning that the savings from not buying electricity were bigger than the loan repayments. The college is saving over $40,000 per year on electricity bills meaning that the solar power plant is now, two years post-installation, well on its way to being paid off. At that point, the Emerald Marist College will own the system outright. In the future, the college may elect to add more panels to its solar system or add a commercial battery such as Tesla Powerpack to extend its solar powering capacities to the shoulder hours in the morning and at night. All of GEM Energy’s solar installations are readily expandable.


Emerald Marist College was facing exploding electricity and demand charges, struggling to make ends meet without compromising the quality of its service or raising tuition fees. The massive 40K per year bill reduction achieved through solar PV, together with the LED lighting and energy efficiency upgrade, is now giving the organisation new opportunities through increased cash flow and creating a real-life learning ground at the school. We would like to congratulate the Emerald Marist College’s managerial team for their foresight and thank them for placing their trust in our company and going solar with us. Massive thanks also go out to our local installers for their stellar work on this and many other jobs around the countryside!

GEM Energy have a passion for helping Australian businesses save money on electricity bills and reclaim their energy independence through our commercial solar solutions. Get in touch for your free quote or feasibility study today!

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