Solar power systems are ideal for buildings with large, flat roofs. That type of building is universal in public schools in the US. Thus, public and private schools offer huge, mostly untapped potential to increase solar energy use in the US. Installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems on US schools just makes so much sense.
Initiating progress with energy savings, some schools are quickly shifting to solar. A recent solar schools report by the Department of Energy, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Solar Foundation supports much more of this growth. The report advises that if K-12 schools took interest in their potential for solar, they could contribute 5.4 gigawatts to the country’s solar capacity (that’s 5,400 megawatts). This potential market of 72,000 schools could take advantage of a cost-effective investment and could be equal to or even over ⅓ of all the solar PV capacity now installed in the United States.
Image Credit: Solar Energy Industries Association
The good news does not stop there. Fulfilling that potential would result in a carbon emissions reduction equal to taking around one million passenger vehicles off the road.
In conjunction, school parking lots can transform with solar PV canopies. If the school owns tracts of vacant land, the land can be used to support modestly-sized solar PV farms.
With 125,000 K-12 schools in the country, 3,727 of them already have solar systems installed. Inspiring news is this is a swiftly rising segment of the market, as more than 3,000 of those were installed in the last six years in the United States. Perhaps this is only the beginning.
According to the continuing analysis, this great news for teachers and schools in need of teachers. The electricity generated by the 3,727 school solar systems already in place adds up to $77.8 million in utility bill savings per year. The money saved will pay 2,200 new teachers a starting annual salary of $35,672.
These figures continue to inspire as the analysis confirms the 450 individual school districts that currently lack solar could save themselves $1,000,000 each over a 30-year period by installing a solar system. The report continues that 40,000 to 72,000 schools could currently install a system cost-effectively.
Table & map credit: SEIA
The study also includes an interactive map of US schools, “allowing users to find which school buildings would be the best candidates for solar.” To use interactive map go to this SEIA page.
Email your administrator if you are curious if your school has solar or might be a good candidate for solar. You can locate your school on SEIA’s interactive map. Help your school to go solar.
In summary, here are key findings from the SEIA report:
- An analysis performed for this report found that 450 individual school districts could each save more than $1,000,000 over 30 years by installing a solar PV system.
- Of the 125,000 schools in the country, between 40,000 and 72,000 can “go solar” cost-effectively.
- There are 3,752 K-12 schools in the United States with solar installations, meaning nearly 2.7 million students attend schools with solar energy systems.
- The 3,727 PV systems at all U.S. schools with solar installations have a combined capacity of 490 megawatts (MW), and generate roughly 642,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year.
- The electricity generated in one year by all 3,727 PV systems represents a combined $77.8 million per year in utility bills ‒ an average of almost $21,000 per year per school.
- This combined energy value is roughly equivalent to 155,000 tablet computers or nearly 2,200 new teachers’ salaries per year.
On a related note, Planetsave recently reported in “New York Solar School Program Unstealths” on the dynamic shift in New York. “The program, K-Solar, is part of the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative. 40 school districts have registered for the program. They are home to ~200 schools. The program provides technical expertise and financing to help schools save money by going solar.”
The Inspired Economist, in “Solar Schools Can Empower Communities and Power Classrooms,” points out the win-win change as educational opportunity for students. “By developing solar projects on schools and powering the buildings with solar energy, it’s a win-win situation for education, clean air, and energy independence. And by giving kids and teachers hands-on learning experiences, solar school projects can help to stimulate more interest in science and math studies, which are essential to building a new clean energy economy.”
Related Story: Solar Schools Can Help Educate Kids About Clean Energy (Video)
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