Utah, USA — Recent findings from The Solar Foundation (TSF) show an encouraging surge in the number of K-12 schools installing solar power to save money, reduce carbon emissions, and introduce a new generation of children to the very practical benefits of renewable energy.
In a first of its kind report prepared with the aid of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and grant money courtesy the U.S. Department of Energy, Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools found there are a total of 3,727 public and private K-12 schools throughout the United States with installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Of those, a stunning 3,000 have been installed in the last six years alone, effectively quintupling solar proliferation.
“That’s an astounding statistic,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of TSF. “We see it as a movement, and the more schools are willing to serve as models for others, and to offer their testimonials, the more of a multiplier effect it will have.”
Currently, the entire installed PV capacity of those 3,727 schools is almost 490 MW. Total generation capacity for all states combined is 642,155,676 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year and total annual projected savings are $77.8 million. The top three states with the highest number of solar-enabled schools are California (963 schools), New Jersey (379 schools) and Illinois (268 schools).
Illinois’ high placement was one of the big surprises revealed by the report, especially considering the nascent state of its solar industry. Luecke said she believes the high number of schools in Illinois with installed PV is indicative of a strong commitment by the state to clean energy.
“Much of that is being driven by the efforts of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, as well as the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE),” Luecke said, also pointing to recent law signed into effect by Governor Pat Quinn that commits $30 million for the purchase of solar systems to help meet a portion of the state’s electricity needs.
Illinois ranked 22nd in the nation for overall school solar capacity, with just over 1 MW (1,037 kW) of installed capacity and 1,136,911 kWh per-year generation capacity. New Jersey ranked 2nd with an installed capacity of 91 MW and annual generation of more than 102 million kWh. Not surprisingly, California leads the pack, boasting 217 MW of installed capacity and an annual generation in excess of 300 million kWh. The sum total of yearly savings amount to just over $100,000 for Illinois. On the upper end of the savings spectrum, New Jersey schools will save $13.5 million per year, and California will save nearly $40.5 million.
“The California school system alone is poised to save more than $1.2 billion over the next 30 years, which represents the lifetime of the solar systems,” Luecke said. “That’s money that can pay for a lot of teacher salaries, books, iPads in the classroom, educational programming, infrastructural overhaul, and more. Those savings can have an enormous impact on achievement levels, which in turn increases global competitiveness and helps young people find promising career paths.”
Luecke said TSF’s access to DOE funding is being used to help schools and school districts with the necessary technical assistance in adopting solar solutions.
“This is free technical assistance that will be available for the next 10 to 12 months,” Luecke said. “We’re positioning ourselves to provide technical help to schools, school districts, administrators, facilities managers, teachers, and other local champions who see this as an opportunity to save money, improve educational programming and help the environment.”
See also our story from yesterday: New York To Spend $23 Million for Solar Panels on 24 Schools