With public school budgets being cut to the bone, this may seem like an unlikely time for school districts to start installing solar PV systems. But a number of new incentives make this the ideal time for schools to solarize.
The California Department of Education estimates that school districts spend $132 per student per year on energy-that means our nearly bankrupt state is spending $700 million a year burning fossil fuels.
More than 35 schools in California have gone solar, including Berkeley’s own Washington Elementary. Most participated in the California Solar Schools Program, which is now closed, but a handful have begun to take advantage of new incentives and attractive financing mechanisms, such as PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) that allow the school district to pay the system off over time.
If you’d like to help your kid’s school save money and the planet, the Helios Project has all the tools you need to get started. Independent schools, unfortunately, are not eligible for many of the incentives available to public schools, but still may be able to find a commercial installer who will offer a PPA or a lender who can loan the money at a favorable enough interest rate that the school will still save money in the long run. (We’ve had a few requests for Sungevity to install systems at schools and we’re flattered but, unfortunately, we only do residential installations).
The California Energy Commission also has some other tips for how schools can save money by conserving energy, including turning out lights in empty classrooms, turning down the thermostat and fixing leaky hot water faucets. And be sure to check out the free solar curricular resources offered by the SunPower Foundation.