Solar on Schools: A Brighter Future for Students and the Environment

Photo Credit: NREL.gov

Photo Credit: NREL.gov

There isn’t a more perfect place for students to learn about solar energy and its multitude of benefits for the environment and communities than on the roof of their own school. U.S. school districts are working with organizations and solar companies to install solar energy on schools, and to complement this technology with solar curriculum and educational resources. Solar on schools creates a win-win scenario when it comes to pollution and education. The first reason is fairly obvious; the adoption of solar energy reduces a school’s emissions. A recent study of solar on schools found that “an average-sized 313-kilowatt solar system prevents the emissions of an estimated 200 pounds of smog-forming pollution a year.”[1] Secondly, solar energy’s rapid growth is creating jobs and playing a significant role in the nation’s economy. These intertwining benefits are paving the way for schools to incorporate solar education into several class subjects.

Thousands of schools are beginning to see the benefits of solar, by implementing it on their roofs and in their classrooms. An excellent, and maybe most unlikely, example is found in the Bluegrass State – Kentucky. Brought about by the Governor’s ambitious energy plan, Richardsville Elementary School in Warren County, KY became the first net-zero public school in the country. In other words, Richardsville Elementary produces the same amount of energy that it consumes. One of the primary reasons it is able to be net-zero is because of its solar array. The school’s solar array includes 2,000 rooftop panels and an additional 700 panels on the shaded parking area. The solar panels are capable of producing 2,500 kWh per sunny day and 245 MWh each year. Richardsville Elementary believed it was very important that it included its students and faculty in every step of the undertaking. Prior to the school’s completion, students visited the construction site to learn about solar energy. Now students lead tours at the school, educating visitors about renewable energy’s role at their school. The hallways of the school are even renewable energy themed.

While there were many upfront costs to this project, the school district is now accruing an annual profit from its solar PV system. Last year the local utility wrote the school district a check for $37,227.31 to compensate the school for the energy that it sent back to the grid. Richardsville Elementary School hopes to set an example for the development of more net-zero schools; it is proof that adopting solar energy can save money, improve the environment, and serve as a teaching tool.

Request:

Do you represent a school that has gone solar? Our friends at The Solar Foundation (TSF) want to hear from you! With support from SolarOPs, the National Solar Schools Census effort seeks to build the most comprehensive database of K-12 solar schools, understand the challenges schools face in going solar, and learn how solar has been used in these schools as a teaching tool.

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

While the Solar Schools Team has been successful in compiling a database of over 3,000 solar schools, they still need help from school administrators, teachers, and others involved in local K-12 education systems to better understand the wide range of experiences with going solar. If you represent a solar school and have 15 to 20 minutes to participate in a short interview with the TSF team, please take a moment to provide your contact information in this brief form. Select interviewees and their schools may be featured prominently in the final National Solar Schools Census Report, to be published later this spring.

With the National Solar Schools Census, TSF hopes to better understand the needs of schools interested in going solar and to help communicate the successes of those that have already done so, but they can’t do it without your participation! Get connected with TSF today!



[1] http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/03/bringing-solar-schools-across-us/