School districts nationwide are facing budget constraints that force administrators to make tough educational decisions. Schools nationwide have begun to make the smart decision to go solar. Dropping prices and new financing options are breaking down the barriers for schools to install cost saving solar arrays. Solar on schools has an array of benefits: saving money, putting teachers back in the classroom, providing an educational tool for students, and helping move our country towards a cleaner energy future.
The K-12 Facts
- Number of Solar Schools: 637
- Total installed wattage : 116.3 MW
- Number of solar panels: 581500
- Combined annual energy savings: $20,120,510
- Pounds of CO2 Offset: 316,130,098
- = Cars off the road: 29,874
- = Trees planted: 3,676,774
School Districts Facing Budget Cuts
School districts across the country have been facing draconian budget cuts over the last five years. Tighter budgets mean superintendents and administrators are increasingly facing difficult resource allocation decisions. Since 2008, the education sector has lost 294,000 jobs. 50% of school districts in California have been forced to reduce or entirely cut art, drama, and music programs. Reductions in teachers and staff increases class sizes and threatening the quality of education students receive.
Solar Energy: A School Budget’s Dream?
Solar energy is one solution that many schools are turning to solve their budget challenges. The cost to install solar arrays has dropped 75% over the last three years, largely due to increased global production. 35 years ago installing one watt of solar energy would have cost $75, today it is more like 75 cents. In response, schools have started adopting solar as a cost cutting alternative. The National Solar School Census, conducted by The Solar Foundation, found that over 637 K-12 U.S. schools have adopted solar arrays. Adding in colleges and universities, there are nearly 300 megawatts installed on educational institutions. In California alone, school districts will save $1.5 billion over the next 30 years. This means more teachers back in the classroom.
New Methods of Financing
Even with the cost savings, less than 1% of schools across the country have gone solar. Historically, prohibitive upfront costs have prevented many schools from considering solar arrays. New financing options have begun to break down many of these barriers. Schools and nonprofits aren’t able to take advantage of state and federal tax benefits that can reduce the cost of a solar installation more than 50%. Luckily, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allow private third parties to own solar installations on buildings and sell the energy to schools for cheaper than they could purchase it from the grid. These third parties can either be private solar developers or, excitingly, community members. For example, Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. recently sold bonds to the community to finance a solar project. With PPAs, schools can often benefit from solar energy with no upfront costs. With new financing opportunities available, more people can have a stake in clean energy in their communities. On June 4, Mosaic launched our first Solar Schools project on the University of Florida. If you’d like to see your school go solar we can help.
If every school in the country went solar, school districts would save enough money to put nearly 100,000 teachers back in the classroom. In New York City alone, this could create 5,346 “green collar jobs”. These installations also have a significant environmental impact. The power generated by schools across the country will offset 316 million pounds of CO2 this year, the equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the road. Solar installations also provide valuable opportunities to educate the clean energy leaders of tomorrow.
The Foundation for Environmental Education (https://solarschools.org/solar-school-initiative/) has developed curriculum to educate students about renewable energy at schools across the country. How can my school go Solar? Mosaic just launched its Solar School campaign. Would you like your school to be the next solar school? Also, the Center for Green Schools has a resource guide on numerous ways your school can finance and implement energy saving improvements.