Report finds an 81% increase in K-12 schools using solar power over the last 5 years.
When Mount Desert Island High School in Maine decided to use solar power, they turned to the students.
Credit: Brighter Future: A STUDY ON SOLAR IN U.S. SCHOOLS
Low or no cost<p>The authors say that solar energy is increasing in part at school because there are often no costs to the school—roughly 79 percent of the solar energy installed at schools over the past five years was financed by solar developers or other third parties.</p><p>"In 28 states and DC, they can use third party ownership, where a solar developer pays for panels, does the install, does maintenance … and, in exchange, schools purchase electricity produced by that system," Tablan said. </p><p>"With the pandemic and economic downturn, and as schools face financial crises, they can do this as a way to save money and they don't necessarily have to have the budget to do it," Tablan added. </p><p>Haney said at Mount Desert High School they had looked into solar for years but the "logistics kept not working out," however, then they worked with the local climate action group A Climate to Thrive, which helped the school find local installers and navigate agreements. </p><p>"The installers own the array, sell us the energy for about seven years, then there's an option to buy [the array] after that," Haney said. "We're offsetting all of our power usage, so we're producing as much or more than we use."</p><p>The report highlighted the Batesville School District in Arkansas, which has 1,483 solar panels that generate roughly half of the district's energy. The district estimates it will save $4 million over the next 20 years in electricity costs, and plans to use some of the savings to bump up teachers' salaries. </p><p>"Our goal is to be net zero on utilities, which would mean paying nothing for utilities. Those savings can go to salaries and staff," Michael Hester, superintendent of the school district, said in the report.</p><p>Another district highlighted in the report, the Tucson Unified School District, expects to save about $43 million over the next 20 years due to its 73,000 solar panels powering nearly half of the energy for 80 schools in the region. </p><p>The Tucson Unified School District's solar energy has reduced annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 38.7 million pounds a year. </p>
Maryland students learn about solar power on Earth Day 2014. (Credit: US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command C5ISR Center)