Why should my school go solar?
What is solar energy?
Two main types of solar systems are available for schools to use:
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which capture solar radiation and convert it directly to electricity (learn more), and
- Solar Thermal Systems, designed to harness the sun’s heat to provide for water heating or space heating or cooling (learn more).
Solar energy has been used since the 1950s and is a stable, clean, and abundant domestic energy source. The US has some of the best solar energy resource potential in the world.
Why go solar?
Installing solar panels can reduce your school’s electricity bill significantly. In many places, the cost of solar electricity is the same or lower than what your school is currently paying. With an average lifespan of 25 years, a solar panel investment can save millions of dollars in the long run. Just ask the Porterville United School District in California, which installed solar in six schools and expects to reduce energy costs by $44 million in the next 25 years.
By going solar your school can also protect against rising electricity costs. Signing a contract to purchase a solar system (or solar electricity) allows schools to guarantee their electricity prices for up to 20 years, saving districts money and making budgeting easier. In Colorado, the Boulder Valley School District recently installed 1.4 megawatts (more than 5,000 panels) on 14 schools in an effort to reduce energy expenditures. The District signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a solar installer and will be paying less for solar power-generated energy than the conventionally sourced electricity that it currently uses.
Create Educational Opportunities
Schools have enormous incentive to go solar, not just to save money, but to create an energy- and sustainability-conscious student body. Since it is important that students be aware of the huge environmental challenges we face this century, schools serve as stewards of sustainability and cornerstones of green initiatives that benefit their community. With solar systems, students are able to see first-hand how sunlight is converted to electricity and solar installations can be integrated into a school’s math, science, and technologies programs to improve test scores in those fields.
In addition, Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that, by 2016, the surging demand for solar systems will add hundreds of thousands of green-collar jobs to the economy, including those in research, development, manufacturing, construction, sales, and marketing. Solar curricula help prepare students for these types of jobs.
Help Our Planet
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), generating electricity contributes over one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Solar power is a renewable substitute for fossil-fuel-burning power plants, which emit greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. And solar energy is free and never runs out. Switching to solar energy is one of the biggest changes we can make in our communities to curb global warming. With rising concerns about our carbon footprint and the mounting cost of energy, solar is a wise investment for the health of the environment and generations to come.