Paying for a Solar System for Your School

How do we pay for a solar system for our school?

Schools have two options for paying for their solar systems: (1) direct ownership, or (2) third-party ownership. With third-party ownership, another entity, such as a solar developer or a group of community investors, actually owns and operates the PV systems on behalf of the school.

Direct ownership of a system makes sense for your school if you are able to fundraise the cost of the project, or if you have access to specific state incentives, grants, or if community members are able to fund the project or donate in-kind goods and services.  Third-party ownership makes sense in states where it is allowed, since a for-profit entity is able to take advantage of solar tax incentives and pass those savings onto you. Third-party ownership can be a great option where available as many arrangements allow a school to go solar with no money down.

Which approach should your school use? To make that decision you need to understand your state’s rules and incentives.  There are two general approaches: Direct ownership or third-party ownership. Check out descriptions of both approaches:

This guide from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory also outlines the different ownership options for schools.