THERE was a "charged" atmosphere when Castlebrook High School pupils officially switched on their new £20,000 solar panels.

The 24 photovoltaic panels, installed with funding from the Co-operative Group, should generate around 3,300 kWh of electricity each year.

This is enough to power a school computer for 33,000 hours or to make 180,000 cups of tea for thirsty teachers - saving around two tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Pupils can keep track of how much renewable energy the panels are generating and the amount of carbon dioxide they have saved to date by checking a monitor in the school building.

At Castlebrook's "switch on" ceremony, guests were joined by the Co-operative's colourful climate change character, Sunny Solar. The rooftop panels are half funded by the group's £1 million Green Energy for Schools scheme with match funding from the Government's Low Carbon Building Programme (LCBP).

Castlebrook, in Parr Lane, Unsworth, is among 100 schools across the UK successfully nominated by Co-operative staff and members to receive the solar panels.

Natalie Jones, assistant manager of the Co-operative Travelcare branch in Bury, said: "This clean, silent technology will help educate Castlebrook's pupils about the measures we can take to help combat climate change as well as reducing the school's reliance on fossil fuels.

"We hope the switch-on of these rooftop solar panels will give the whole community a jolt by sending out a strong message about the urgent need to do what we can to tackle climate change."

Headteacher Anthony Roberts commented: "We are proud to be among the schools leading the way on renewable energy through this generous Co-operative initiative.

"The solar panels will boost our efforts to reduce the school's carbon footprint while engaging pupils on the important issue of climate change."