See which states lead in solar-powered schools

Energy costs trail only personnel as the largest expenses for U.S. schools
By: | September 15, 2020
An Arizona district expects to save $43 million over 20 years while an Arkansas school system has used solar systems to give teachers raises. (GettyImages/tzahiV)An Arizona district expects to save $43 million over 20 years while an Arkansas school system has used solar systems to give teachers raises. (GettyImages/tzahiV)

The number of solar-power schools in the U.S. has grown significantly in the last five years, with California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Indiana leading the way.

Some 7,332 public and private schools—serving 5.3 million students—now use solar power, according to the third edition of the “Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools” report from the nonprofit Generation180, The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Energy costs trail only personnel as the largest expenses for U.S. schools. The report found that nearly 80% of school solar projects are financed by a third party, such as a solar developer who funds, builds, owns, and maintains the system.

“Solar is absolutely attainable for all schools—regardless of how sunny or wealthy it is where you live,” said Wendy Philleo, executive director of Generation180. “Schools that switch to solar can put energy cost savings toward return-to-school preparations, such as installing ventilation systems, or toward retaining teachers and preserving essential programs.”


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Tucson USD in Arizona projects that solar power will save $43 million over 20 years while the Batesville School District in Arkansas has used energy savings to gives its teachers up to $9,000 per year in raises, the report says.

Many schools also use their solar power systems to teach STEM students hands-on and career-oriented lessons about renewable energy.

For example, New Y0rk City schools have about 250 solar projects completed or under construction. The district has partnered with a nonprofit, Solar One, to provide more than 1,000 teachers with professional development in using solar power in STEM and engineering instruction.

The nonprofit has also provided these teachers with tool kits that omclude motors, lights, multimeters and solar panels for class activities.

And in Illinois, most of the solar-powered schools have received funding from the statewide Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant program.

Across the U.S., schools have installed 1,365 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 254,030 U.S. homes, the report says.


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