California is one of the top solar states in the United States, and it is now using solar to do more than reduce carbon dioxide emissions and generate electricity. The California school system, which has struggled with constant budget reductions in recent years, has found that solar installations can free up money to keep teachers employed.
Using general obligation bonds, some California skills are installing solar panels, then using the energy savings from the system for the general fund that pays teachers’ salaries.
This doesn’t work for every school though; getting a bond on a ballot is expensive, and must be passed by 55 percent or more of voters. As an alternative, schools are utilizing low-interest loans to install renewable energy systems like solar arrays.
David Potovsky, senior project developer at Borrego Solar, explained how the loan model works to Forbes. “The loans can be paid off by energy savings and the California solar rebate, and schools are operating their systems in the black from day one.”
The schools’ general funds also receive dividends from these types of installations.
Potovsky says that the average school in California in 2010 spent around $1 million for electricity. If that same school installed a solar energy system in 2011, it could have a million dollar budget surplus in 2012. (That’s assuming the solar system generates 100 percent of the school’s energy, but in reality about 80 percent is more likely.)