THE largest solar panel installation at a UK school has been unveiled at Matthew Arnold School in Cumnor.

Award-winning Oxford author Philip Pullman officially unwrapped 100kw of solar panels yesterday.

West Oxford Community Renewables funded the £290,000 installation at the school, and a 50kw installation on the roof of the Aldi store in Botley Road, which was also officially launched yesterday.

There are 550 panels in four sections on the school’s main assembly hall and classrooms and on the school science block.

Electricity they generate will be sold to the school and to the supermarket, and profits will be passed to climate change campaigners Low Carbon West Oxford to reinvest in future green initiatives.

Any surplus energy the panels produce will be sold to the National Grid.

They are expected to generate about £50,000 over 25 years for reinvestment in local green initiatives.

Headteacher Katherine Ryan said: “This project is already integrated into science lessons as part of our investigation of alternative energy sources.

“It’s great for the pupils because they can see the panels working every day and we can take the electricity readings.

“We sell the electricity we do not use to the National Grid.”

Brady O’Brien, 14, from Headington, said: “I think we are leading the way for other schools to follow.”

Mr Pullman, who lives in Cumnor, said: “I hope Matthew Arnold will be the first of many schools in the country to do this. It’s a wonderful initiative and shows what can be done with a bit of enterprise and hope.”

West Oxford Community Renewables was able to go ahead with the scheme after getting an £800,000 grant last year from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Spokesman Barbara Hammond said: “We funded the panels and the school allowed us to put them on the roof.

“The school gets electricity at a lower cost and we invest the money we get in low-carbon projects suggested by Low Carbon West Oxford.”

Ruth Finar, a spokesman for Low Carbon West Oxford, said: “This is the biggest solar panel installation so far at a school in the UK.”

The school panels will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 30 average UK homes for a year, and the Aldi panels 15.

James Hoare, of Ardenham Energy Ltd, which installed the panels at Matthew Arnold, said: “A bigger installation is planned at a school in Plymouth but it hasn’t gone up yet.”