During the 10th annual Ashden Awards, created in 2001 to praise the use of sustainable energy in the UK and in developing countries, two Westcountry schools bagged a prize for succeeding in cutting their carbon emissions through the use of solar photovoltaic technology.

Okehampton College in Devon and St Columb Minor primary school in Newquay, Cornwall, were two out of six UK and six international projects chosen as winners to receive their awards from internationally renowned natural history filmmaker Sir David Attenborough.Winners received £10,000 or £20,000 to invest in future sustainable energy work.

Okehampton College won the award for chopping its electricity bills by more than half and saving 70 tonnes of CO2 annually by encouraging energy-saving behaviour, replacing 3,000 fluorescent lights, installing cavity wall insulation and using solar photovoltaic energy. The College is also working with 11 primary schools by helping them carry out energy surveys and assisting 10 of them to install solar PV.

Keith Webber, the school's community technology coordinator said, “Our approach has been to win hearts and minds through our lessons and community engagement whilst at the same time taking practical measures like installing renewable technologies that are used in teaching a range of subjects.”

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Founder Director of the Ashden Awards said, “We were very impressed with the huge difference Okehampton College's sustainable energy work has made both to the school itself and its 11 feeder primary schools.”

St Columb Minor School has raised nearly £120,000 to give its building a green makeover with energy efficiency, a wind turbine, solar photovoltaics and solar thermal. Electricity consumption has fallen by 37% and gas consumption by 6%. In order to raise awareness outside the school, Year Six students also created the video, 'Making a Difference' giving their views on climate change and featuring the school's use of renewable energy.

Gill Harper, the school business manager said, “We're learning all the time. There's always something more you can do – that's why we want to network with other schools to share ideas and explore ways to continue to improve the environment and reduce our carbon emissions.”