Schools Learning Valuable Lessons About Solar

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California schools are taking advantage of the benefits of solar power, according to a recent report by Environment California Research & Policy Center. Almost 200 solar projects have been installed at schools throughout the state — not only saving money on utility costs, but also showing students the value of renewable energy.

The report, “Making the Grade with Clean Energy: Case Studies of California Solar Schools,” is the first of its kind. Eighteen K-12 school districts were surveyed for the report, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. That district has 27 solar projects, with 60 more planned. When all the work is done, the district will produce more than 42 megawatts of clean energy while saving up to $800,000 monthly, according to Environment California.

Each year, schools in California spend about the same money on energy expenses — roughly $700 million — as they do on books and classroom supplies. Environment California says a school with a 313 kW solar photovoltaic system can save between $40,000 and $125,000 in utility costs annually.

“The time is right for renewable power on school campuses. During these tough fiscal times, schools are showing more and more interest in the significant cost savings that can be passed along to students, teachers and communities, along with the positive environmental benefits that have always been part of the equation,” said Anna Ferrera, executive director of the School Energy Coalition, in a press release.

Among the progressive solar program in California schools:

  • Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego County heats two swimming pools with solar power, cutting greenhouse gases by 220,000 pounds each year.
  • Berkeley Unified School District is part of a Solar Master Plan program to help school districts learn the basics of incorporating solar power on campus.
  • Students in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District monitor the clean energy their schools’ solar programs generate through an online system.
  • Antelope Valley Union School District’s 9,600 kW solar photovoltaic project is projected to save 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases over 20 years.

“The movement toward greener schools will help create jobs, protect our environment, save money and create teachable moments for students all at the same time,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

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