California Utility Funds Solar PV Projects for Schools

A new funding round for the installation of solar systems on schools in California, and matching educational material, could help inspire a new generation of students to understand and value clean, renewable energy.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has issued a request for proposals to supply $1.5 million worth of projects for the Solar Schools Program grants. Solar Schools is a program created by the company to assist local public schools with energy resources, science projects and specialized solar science curriculum for teachers. “Local schools today face unprecedented financial challenges,” said Dan Quigley, PG&E’s Charitable Contributions program director. “Rising costs coupled with less funding from traditional sources have led many to cut back on programs that enrich children’s lives. PG&E’s Solar Schools Program brings together our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and education in a way that benefits students and the community for years to come.” The program focuses on public schools in underserved communities within the PG&E service area in central and northern California. Under California law, investor-owned utilities must either source a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy or administer programs that promote and provide incentives for renewable energy projects. This year, teachers and administrators from eligible schools can apply for grants that would cover three major areas. — Installation of a solar generation system for the school’s educational use. 20 schools will be selected to receive these systems at no cost. — Solar-based curriculum training package. Over 400 teachers will be selected to attend science curriculum training seminars and receive a specialized curriculum package. — “Bright Ideas” grants. PG&E will award up to $250,000 in grants of $2,500 and $5,000 to schools for innovative solar science projects. PG&E is partnering with leaders in the education sector and the solar industry to deliver the resources associated with this program. The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) manages curriculum training and administration of the “Bright Ideas” grants; the Foundation for Environmental Education coordinates installation of the donated solar generation systems. Also planned for 2005, PG&E will give up to twenty schools a donation and free installation of a 1.3 kW PV system. While a relatively small system, each PV project will include an online monitoring tool that provides real-time data on the system’s activity and the amount of electricity generated, which can be helpful for educational purposes. These schools will also receive the specialized curriculum package funded through the program, but will not be eligible to receive a “Bright Ideas” grant. The grade-specific lessons help local schools meet statewide testing standards and bring the latest solar technology right into the classroom through lesson plans and solar-powered science projects. “Just as classroom teachers aspire to create great thinkers, PG&E aspires to help teach tomorrow’s leaders about solar energy and the use of renewable energy sources today,” said Quigley. For more information and to apply online for a PG&E Solar Schools Program grant, visit the company’s Web site through the link below.

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