Solar Schools Better Equipped for Recession

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U.S. schools spend more on utilities than books and computers combined.

Public schools spent $8 billion on utilities in 2002, up by $2 billion from 2000, and the fluctuating utility and oil prices can be daunting when planning for the future.  Although natural gas and oil prices have come down significantly from their high last July, it is important to remember their recent impact.

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“Electricity is up approximate 12%, heating oil is up 65%, and natural gas is up 40%,” said Supt. Dr. Patricia Grenier of Barnstable School District last summer. “This is nothing that anyone has done, but this is an impact that must be addressed.”

Some school districts are cutting staff or increasing taxes. Others are even considering a 4 day school week to save on fuel costs. No matter how the budgets are ultimately balanced, it is hard for anyone to get excited about paying more for energy.

An organization called Climate Cycle is gathering momentum and enthusiasm by installing solar systems in public schools. Climate Cycle organizes bike rides to raise awareness and funds to combat climate change. Proceeds from the rides are used to install the solar systems in local schools and for global warming education. The inaugural ride will be on May 9 in downtown Chicago.

solar schoolsWhy Solar as a Solution?

“Solar technology is a way to supplant the use of fossil fuels,” said Joey Feinstein, Executive Director of Climate Cycle. “Contrary to most people’s beliefs, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions. Putting solar in schools is a great way to reduce the carbon emissions of these buildings.”

Solar also saves money for schools that are struggling to balance their budgets. These solar systems are provided to schools at no cost to them, while giving children first-hand experience with solutions for global warming.  Renewable energy is seen as a rapidly growing job market, and students with greater knowledge of these technologies have an advantage in the job market.

“There will be tens of thousands of jobs in renewable energy in the future,” said Tim Herling, the director of operations at Notre Dame High School, a school with two solar systems.  “Why not put the boys in this school in the front of this industry? If this is the future, let it start here.”

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