Photo caption: (l to r): Freja Lundberg, Emma Foster and Freya Boa see solar power in action in Pamplona, Spain.
Three Charleston Academy pupils, who won HIE's Big Green Challenge debating competition, recently returned from their renewable energy fact-finding trip to Navarre in Northern Spain.
The second year pupils, Emma Foster, Freya Lundberg and Freya Boa, travelled together with their teachers Catriona Fraser and Kay Storey to visit a number of renewable energy projects in the region including CENIFER, a renewable energy training centre, and The Renewable Energy Centre of Aibar.
Second year debaters from across the Highlands and Islands took part in the competition, which was organised by HIE and focused on the issues surrounding renewable energy with the grand prize being the trip to the Navarre region of Spain to witness renewable energy in action.
Catriona Fraser, teacher at Charleston Academy said: "We had a fabulous time in Navarre and saw a variety of renewable energy projects. Navarre is very similar in many ways to the Highlands as it is far away from the main economic centres in big cities. In terms of the levels of adoption of renewable technologies however, there is a lot we can learn. Navarre researches and develops the technology, manufactures the machinery and trains the maintenance engineers - all within the region itself. It would be great to see the Highlands and Islands learn more from Navarre in how to make sure that each part of the process, from research through to installation, is kept within the area itself and therefore benefitting every part of the local economy.
"We would like to thank Highlands and Islands Enterprise for allowing us to visit Navarre and see for ourselves how renewable energy can have such a positive impact on a rural economy."
Anna Allan, senior development manager with HIE's energy team, said: "The pupils from Charleston showed a great deal of confidence and skill in constructing their arguments and showing a clear understanding of the issues surrounding renewable energy developments. The standard of debating at the grand final in the Scottish Parliament back in March was excellent and the Charleston students did an excellent job of beating off some stiff competition.
"We chose this trip as the prize because Navarre, like Scotland, is aiming for 100% renewable electricity generation. As a rural location there are many similarities between the region of Navarre and the Highlands and Islands and we felt it was important to show the pupils how other countries are embracing renewables and the benefits that it can provide to rural communities.
"Renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in reducing carbon emissions and creating quality jobs, and we're keen to make the people of the Highlands and Islands aware of the issues and opportunities that renewable energy presents."
Emma Foster one of the Charleston Academy pupils, said: "I didn't realise that Navarre provides 70% of its electricity needs from renewable sources. We all learned a lot from this experience - from researching and debating the various motions throughout the competition through to the fact-finding mission to Spain."
The Grand Final of the Big Green Challenge was held at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh at the end of March. The competition, now in its second year, aims to give young people a better understanding of renewable energy and the issues surrounding it. The second prize winners were from the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and they will be going on a trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall later this summer. For more information on the Big Green Challenge, visit www.thebiggreenchallenge.co.uk