Equilibrium & Sustainability

Nearly 1 in 10 US schools now using solar power

Solar panel outfitting

Thousands of schools across the U.S. are beginning to make the switch to solar power, generating significant cost savings and helping them meet their hefty energy needs, a new report has found.

More than 8,400 public and private schools serving 6 million students — or about 1 in 10 institutions nationwide — are now using solar power, according to the report from the nonprofit Generation180.

Since 2015, the number of solar panels installed at the country’s K-12 schools has tripled, while the number of schools that use solar has doubled, the report found.

California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois led the country for solar capacity at schools, according to the report.

And the schools installing solar panels aren’t necessarily in the wealthiest communities.

Nearly half — 47 percent — of the public schools with solar are eligible for Title 1 funding, which serves a large population of low-income students, according to the report.

Schools with budgets of all sizes have been installing these systems through third-party arrangements that minimize upfront costs and help schools achieve immediate savings, Generation180 noted.

Such partnerships helped fund about 87 percent of the solar power installed at U.S. schools, while the remainder was purchased and owned directly by the schools, according to the report.

“The benefits of solar energy are now reaching a broad range of schools across the country, including schools in under-resourced communities that stand to gain the most from the energy cost savings and educational opportunities that solar technology provides,” lead author Tish Tablan, director of Generation180’s Solar For All Schools Program, said in a statement.

“We are striving for all schools and communities, regardless of their size, geography, or wealth, to have access to clean and affordable power,” Tablan added.

The Generation180 report, the authors contended, comes “at a time of unparalleled momentum” for clean energy, as the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden last month is poised to funnel about $369 billion into renewable energy projects.

With 1,647 megawatts of installed solar capacity, the nation’s schools generate enough solar energy to power about 300,000 homes each year, the authors stated.

If all U.S. K-12 schools were to be fully powered by solar, these buildings could offset the carbon dioxide emissions generated annually by 16 coal-fired power plants, the report found.

Installing solar panels in schools also provides students with hands-on STEM learning opportunities, as well as training for potential careers in the industry, the authors noted.

For example, Denver’s Renewable Energy Academy offers high school students the chance to prepare for employment as solar installers, according to the report.

In Albuquerque, N.M., a solar and energy storage system at one high school will aim to help the school lower its bills by reducing peak energy demand.

“We need the education sector to help advance our country’s transition to a clean energy economy,” Wendy Philleo, executive director of Generation180, said in a statement.

“K-12 schools are becoming incubators for our future clean energy workforce by teaching about renewable energy, engaging in hands-on STEM research, and training students for solar careers,” Philleo added. “Schools need to be preparing our children to help build a better future.”

Tags California Public schools schools solar panels solar power
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