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September 15, 2015 | Why Schools Should Consider Installing Solar Energy

Even though it has been around since the 1950s, solar energy has only recently become heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuels and a way to save the earth, while still meeting our electrical needs. With the advances in solar technology and improved access to financing options, many schools are beginning to install solar arrays, in order to create their own microgrids that benefit both the school and the surrounding community.

Though schools across the United States are beginning to realize the benefits of solar energy, many have yet to explore the possibilities that this renewable source can provide. Large, flat rooftops on school buildings are excellent locations for the two most commonly used systems: solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar thermal arrays. School parking lots are another great source of potential energy. On sunny days, solar PV canopies can provide shaded parking, while turning that sunshine into usable electricity for the school. Solar energy has immense untapped potential for schools. So, why should your school consider installing solar energy?

Save Money

Reduced costs for electricity are perhaps the biggest reason to install solar energy. Though the initial start-up costs can be high, solar panels pay for themselves in the long-term. When you consider that solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, you’ll save millions of dollars over the lifetime of just one array. In addition, districts with multiple buildings can bundle installations into one package, further reducing initial cost.

Not only can schools save money based on today’s electricity costs, administrators can protect their buildings and districts against rising utility costs. Contracts to purchase a solar system can guarantee electricity prices for up to 20 years, allowing administrators to better plan their budgets.

Not only can schools save money on electrical costs, they may also be able to profit by selling surplus energy back to the local power grid. Not only will such actions provide clean electricity for others in the immediate area, it can also provide an additional source of funding for your school. Decreased energy costs along with the potential for revenue from surplus electricity could allow schools to start or to continue programs they previously couldn’t afford.

Helping the Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that generation of electricity contributes to more than one-third of all greenhouse emissions in our country. Solar power is a sustainable and renewable resource that can help reduce the need for power plants that burn fossil fuels. Rising concerns about our collective carbon footprint and the effects greenhouse gases have on climate change make investing in solar a solid choice for the environment and the health of future generations.

Teachable Moments

Schools are the heart of most communities as they are not only the places where children and teens come to learn, but also gathering places where parents and community members learn about new ideas and innovations. One of the immediate by-products of a solar energy installation is a student body that is conscious about energy and sustainability issues. Solar array installations allow student to get a first-hand look at how sunlight is converted into electricity and how the overall process can benefit the immediate community. Teachable moments can be integrated into math, science and technology curricula.

The Solar Industries Association predicts that by 2016, increasing demand for solar array installations will add thousands of green jobs to the American economy. Solar curricula will inspire and prepare students for careers in solar research, development, construction, marketing and sales