5 Ways Solar Energy Benefits Schools

8 Dec 2020

Schools and universities, both private and public, are constantly met with challenges: budget cuts, adjustments to teaching methods, accommodating every students’ need, and exceeding sustainability goals. Those challenges shape the educational experience for students and without the proper funding, facility and staff do not have the resources to confront the issues that prohibit success. However, with the falling cost and increased availability of solar energyschools are increasingly using solar energy to take advantage of the savings and improved budget constraints that parallel clean energy incentives. 

1. Solar Energy Saves Schools Money

With over $8 billion a year spent on energy schools and universities are always looking for ways to reduce energy costs. This can be done through onsite solar energy and the financial structures that allow access to solar energy. 79% of schools with installed solar turn to a thirdparty entity and finance their system through a power purchase agreement (PPA), which allows schools to purchase the energy at a fixed cost per kilowatt-hour without having to pay for the system. This enables schools to go solar with no upfront costs, providing clean energy and big savings to mitigate high energy costs, typically used for schools with constrained budgets.  

A perfect example of solar and schools working in harmony to provide high energy savings is Sol Systems’ 5.34 MW project with UMass Amherst. Through a PPA, the university saved $89,000 on electricity in the first year, growing to an average of $310,000 per year and $6.2 million over 20 years. This not only creates massive savings, but also creates a cleaner environment for students that attributes to the adaption of a clean energy future. Schools can invest savings directly into further educational opportunities rather than high electricity costs, saving millions. 

2. Budget Certainty and Reinvestment

With the opportunity of huge savings through solar and a third-party PPA, schools can now invest into the resources that shape holistic curriculum including filling budget gaps, increasing teacher salaries, and eliminate staff cuts.  Through a third-party PPA, schools and universities know exactly how much money is spent on for a specific portion of energy supply from day one, allowing schools to budget their energy with certainty over the project’s lifespan.  The savings and budget certainty provided by solar installation allows school to reinvest in pay raises for teachersschool supplies, and giving students the proper resources needed for success.   Solar energy helps savings accrue with the additional certainty of knowing exactly how much is spent on electricityallowing funding for resources that shape the educational experience for students and staff. 

3. Educational and Holistic Learning Opportunities

Solar energy provides incredible opportunity for students to be directly involved in solar energy projects that power their classrooms and facilities. Schools with solar are constantly developing new ways to integrate solar energy education to the classroom through learninlabs and project-based teaching.  This further promotes the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, carving out a section of the curriculum to focus on energy and solar with a first-hand, tangible case study focusing on the school’s solar project. Sol Systems is currently working with the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign through their sustainability minor capstone course to conduct an emissions audit for the school’s onsite solar project, Solar Farm 2.0.  Through this type of learning, students gain experience to the career possibilities that stem from renewable energy and become energy conscious and long-term advocates for a greener world as they face the preemptive battles of climate change.

4. Reaching Renewable Energy Goals

Solar energy for schools can also help districts and universities reach their renewable energy goalsK-12 schools in the US consume about 8% of all the energy used in commercial buildings. But the opportunity to take advantage of cost savings while reducing greenhouse gas emissions is bright and show promising results, positioning districts as climate leaders. This, in part, is due to impact of state policy mandates and utility incentives that drive solar energy procurement, creating a clean energy future. The number of installed solar in schools has grown 139% over the past 5 years according to the Solar Foundation, showing a tremendous push for schools to shift their energy to renewables. 

5. Potential Shade (Carports)

Schools and universities naturally house the perfect, under-utilized space for solar: carports. Naturally, some schools hold wide, flat rooftops that serve has the perfect space for solar. However, carports also serve as the perfect area to harvest solar energy because they don’t require additional land and, in some states, installing a solar on a carport can cost little to nothing. Carports also offer cars free shade and weather protection for facility and students while also housing solar, providing all the benefits of clean energy. 

Sol Systems has worked with all varieties of schools and universities. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our solar for schools and universities page or email us at energy@solsystems.com. 


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Claire Siwulec

Claire Siwulec