Schools Soak Up Sun with Solar Power Plan, Reduce Costs

A new report from the Solar Foundation shows thousands of schools across the nation are going solar.

According to the study, "Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in US Schools," solar usage in schools in the US has dramatically increased over the last decade from 303 kilowatts (kW) to 457,000 kW, and has also reduced the amount of carbon emissions by 442,799 metric tons each year, equivalent to reducing the number of cars on the road each year by 100,000.

The report is the first of its kind to offer a solar map showing how the energy is used to help power schools across the country. According to the report, thousands of schools are seeing a reduction in utility bills from harnessing solar energy. That savings is going to increase teacher's salaries and purchase new textbooks. The report also estimates about 70,000 additional schools could also benefit.

About one-half of the schools participating have systems larger than 50 kW, with an additional 55 schools having systems 1 MW or larger. The average size for a K-12 solar photovoltaic (PV) system is 89 kW.

The report shows 3,752 schools, or about 2.7 million students, are taking part in the solar energy initiative. Put together, those schools have about 642,000 megawatt-hours (mWh) of electricity per year, which amounts to $77.8 million total saved on utility bills, or about $21,000 per year, per school.

There is still a large number of schools that could benefit from the initiative. Of the 125,000 schools across the country, about 40,000-72,000 could benefit from going solar.

There are also about 450 school districts found by the report that could benefit by $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar PV system.

Most of the solar additions have been added in the past few years. More than 3,000 of the schools in the study began their participation between 2008 and 2011, amounting to an increase in solar usage by schools of 110%. Schools have been more likely to participate as installation costs associated with solar power have gone down. Prices have dropped by 53% since 2010.

‘Solar enables schools to save money, enrich learning and keep teachers in the classroom – all while providing local jobs and generating emissions-free electricity,' said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. Luecke added: ‘With five times as many solar schools today than in 2008, it is clear that the solar schools movement is gaining momentum and providing kids with the greatest benefits.'

The study was prepared by the Solar Foundation funded by a grant from the US Department of Energy's SunShot program. According to the Energy Information Association (EIA), solar generation in the US more than doubled from 2012 to 2013, rising from 4.327 GWh to 9.253 GWh. Based on its current pace, EIA estimates solar generation in the US. In 2014 will touch above 15 GWH, a new record high for the US.

09 26, 2014
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