Today there are over 5,500 schools that have gone solar. Since 2014, that represents a 46% increase according to a recent study by The Solar Energy Industries Association. So, what is behind this sudden burst of solar activity at school districts across the country? 

There are many factors at play.  

Cost – Solar systems today are much less expensive than their predecessors. Not only has the technology decreased in cost, but there are new ways to finance these projects.  Some solar companies offer favorable financing terms, other school districts sign third-party power purchase agreements that ensure their energy costs will remain stable. 

Sustainability – Unlike fossil fuel options, solar is a sustainable power source. School districts can better predict and control their energy costs with solar.  Fossil fuel prices, in contrast, can be unpredictable, leaving districts with budget gaps that can impact the overall quality of education. And, the use of solar decreases the amount of harmful CO2 emissions that are created by oil and gas. One study estimated that solar schools offset an average of 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

Security – When the lights go out, solar energy can provide backup power with battery storage systems. These batteries protect the safety of students in times of emergencies. During storms, solar battery systems ensure the lighting, alarms and environmental systems stay operational when needed most. Often, solar schools with backup systems become community shelters during catastrophic weather events. 

STEM Education – Solar systems are a great way to involve and engage students in STEM subjects. Having a solar panel array gives students access to technology that will fuel their future. One school district in California incorporated the school’s solar systems into their curriculum. They developed lessons based on the solar system along with real-time monitoring of energy output. This hands-on learning was responsible for 60% improvement in science and math test scores. 

CASE STUDY– PA School First Opens Zero-Energy Building  

Millersville University of Pennsylvania set a goal of achieving campus carbon neutrality by 2040, and their first milestone was reached with the opening of the Lombardo Welcome Center in January of 2018. Millersville selected TerraSol Energies, Inc. and ultimately SunPower as their partners to plan, design and build the first structure in their sustainable-purposed future.  

The Lombardo Welcome Center features a 15-foot tall PV solar tracking structure. These solar panels will track the trajectory of the sun 365 days a year. With dual-axis pivot joints this structure will obtain optimal sun capturing performance year-round and provide campus goers with an up-close and personal experience with solar energy. Students have the opportunity to get hands on learning by monitoring the ongoing performance of the solar system with web-based tools.  

Now open, the welcome center: 

  • Has reduced the university’s carbon footprint by 170 tons of CO2 per year 
  • Boasts a 175-kW system 
  • Houses 528 single solar panels 
  • Generates 206,708 kWh, annually

“TerraSol has been a great partner,” says Chris Steuer, Sustainability Manager of Millersville University, “Helping us create a space that generates positive energy— beginning with the solar panels and carrying through to the inspiring future it portrays for our students.” 

If you are interested in learning more about how your school can utilize clean and sustainable solar energy, contact us today. As a leading Sun Power Installation Representative, we can help you reduce your school district’s energy bill without spending a dime.