School budgets are tight. The COVID-19 crisis has added costs and reduced revenues. It’s got to be a tough time managing school and school district budgets. One thing can certainly help a great deal, though — solar. But how to go solar? What should schools do? What should school districts do?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers.
But Generation180 does! The organization has published the third edition of its Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools report. The report includes “new data and trends on solar uptake at schools nationwide, how schools are saving millions in energy bills (with little-to-no upfront investment), and a national ranking of all states for solar on schools.”
Here are some key findings from the report, according to Generation180:
- Over the last 5 years, K-12 schools more than doubled the total amount of installed solar.
- 7,332 schools nationwide now utilize solar power, making up 5.5% of all K-12 public and private U.S. schools.
- The number of schools with solar increased by 81% since 2014.
- More than 5.3 million students attend a school with solar.
I have to admit — I was a bit shocked by some of these stats. I had no idea 5.5% of all K-12 public and private U.S. schools had gone solar. That’s nearly one out of every 18 schools.
I presume that a lot of this — perhaps even most of this — is in a few top solar states. California comes to mind, in particular. It dominates solar power capacity across the nation, accounting for 35% of installed solar power capacity in the USA, and is just a really freakin’ big and populous state. In fact, if California was a country, it would be the 5th largest economy in the world.
Well, actually, there’s an interactive map on this matter on Generation180’s website. California is indeed #1. (Do I win a prize for my totally difficult guess?) Other top states for solar power include Arizona, Nevada, New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Connecticut.
Generation180 also shares some case studies of schools that went solar:
- New York, NY: Preparing a Clean Energy Generation
- Batesville, AR: Energy Savings Reap Investments in Teacher Pay and Education
- Tucson, AZ: Saving $43 Million Over 20 Years
- Santa Barbara, CA: Anchoring Schools as Heart of the Community with Energy Resilience
For much more, go dig into the solar schools report.
For anyone just popping in and new to the topic of solar power, or who hasn’t checked on the market in a few years or so, you may be wondering why schools aren’t covered in solar panels already, and you might have the sneaking suspicion that solar power is simply too expensive to be logical. Perhaps 5–10 years ago, but the market has changed fast in the past decade.
The price of solar panels, on average, was 12 times higher in 2010 than it is today. That’s just the price of the core solar hardware, but other costs have come down as well and rooftop solar power is also at a record low. Furthermore, as I wrote yesterday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) — traditionally both conservative and tied to fossil fuel industries — has declared that solar power now offers the cheapest electricity in history, on average.
I typically think that our best policies, our best actions, our best selves should be implemented at schools. We need children to grow up in a world that gives them high aspirations, good examples, and stimulation to learn and evolve. As a result, it seems only natural that schools should be decked with solar panels, just as school buses should be electric.
Of course, beyond examples and education, kids also need clean air to breathe in order to develop in the best possible way. And they need a stable, livable climate for the rest of their lives. So, no matter what else is on the table and being considered for the budget, schools deserve solar power — because kids deserve a healthy environment and safe climate.
Whether you have a kid in school, are a teacher, know a teacher, or just care about kids, I encourage you to spend some time scrolling through the new Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools report and potentially doing a bit of legwork to get your local school(s) solarized.
Featured image courtesy of IPS Solar