Schools and Solar: What Are the Benefits?
As parents know, every other note that comes home in a school kids’ folder is a bake sale request or a fundraiser form. The other notes are friendly reminders to clip the pink rectangles off their pantry items that include Box Top for Education initiatives. Each label is a dime toward the school, and every dime counts when it comes to getting new science equipment or uniforms for band.
For an education that is free, parents spend a lot of time thinking about ways to raise finances for their children’s schools when there is an option right above their heads: solar power.
Why sustainability Is fiscally responsible
Despite the approach to schooling that requires cash from constant popcorn and wrapping paper sales, it doesn’t seem like municipalities do all they can to create sustainable and fiscally responsible environments. Sometimes saving a dime means spending a penny, and solar panels for schools are a great example of how schools could put money toward things that count, all while doing a better job of caring for the earth.
Other nations are tackling climate change with solar energy with more zeal. For them, schools are just the beginning of a nationwide transformation. Whether federal monies go toward re-vamping schools or creating new structures, solar energy is the smartest option for educational buildings.
Follow by example – Canada’s schools and solar power
There is plenty of precedent for how schools can harness solar polar. The most recent is in Canada. Thirty-six schools in Canada’s Alberta Providence have been given $9 million to put solar panels on their rooftops. Understanding that leveraging solar energy will mean relying on more sustainable sources of energy, the government sees the money spent as an investment in the infrastructure of the community.
Another benefit is that, along with fighting climate change, students learn about sustainable energy. Included in the initiative is the creation of an app that lets students follow how the panels are doing and see in real time the impact of cutting carbon emissions.
Understand the benefits to U.S. schools
There are myriad benefits to investing in solar power that should encourage U.S. cities and counties to consider solar energy for schools. Though, they should be an obvious choice for new constructions, most school roofs are flat — perfect places to lay either photovoltaic or solar thermal systems. Here are some reasons schools should consider:
- Saving Money: Energy options are available that cut carbon emissions, but not all of them offer long-term savings. Solar paneling offsets a school’s monthly utility bills, and for schools in the Northeast and Upper Mid-west, those savings would be significant. According to one study, the electricity currently generated from school solar installations is about $77.8 million each year.
- Education: For future generations to understand the impact of global warning, educating them is crucial. Consider the example of Alberta: The kids in the school watch the reduction of carbon, and maybe almost as important, they are a part of the change. A similar occurrence happened in Chicago, when massive solar panels where installed in two area schools. The solar panels were a tangible way the schools’ 2,500 students could learn the difference energy conservation makes.
- Tax Incentives: Public and private educational facilities are tax-exempt, but many are arguing for their tax-exempt status to change. Not everything comes down to money, but for solar energy, it can really save your school's budget come April 15 - if the educational facility is a for-profit. With the Investment Tax Credit, also called the federal solar tax credit, schools can deduct 30 percent of the installation costs of solar paneling.
- Lasting Performance: Solar panels have a 20-25 year guarantee for up to 80 percent efficiency, but the actual life span of solar panels is much longer. Unlike other energy systems, solar panels have no moving parts, which means fewer opportunities to fail or break down. There is very little maintenance required of solar panels, and you can count on their reliability.
- Infrastructure Stability: Integrating solar energy into our schools isn’t hard. Very few changes would need to be made to the infrastructure of buildings already in place. For government integration of solar energy, schools make the most sense because the flat roofs of many of their structures are easy places to install panels.
- A Healthier Planet: Science isn’t a mystery — we can leverage it to see real change in the environment. A painless way to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and slow down the very real effects of climate change would be for schools to invest in solar energy. Right now, the U.S. is only behind China in global carbon dioxide emissions.
- Energy Independence: For the year 2012, the U.S. depended on imported fossil fuels for 40 percent of our energy. How can we unbiasedly be a voice of change for violence in the Middle East when we have a vested interest in their business? Consider, too, that oil, gas and coal energy sources are finite - we can’t depend on them forever. Solar energy, on the other hand, is infinite, stable and less expensive. It also would free up those finite sources of energy for other uses, when solar energy isn’t an option.
Leave cookie sales to the Girl Scouts
Schools shouldn’t need to peddle baked goods to properly educate the nation’s children. They should consider real methods for cost savings, and harnessing the power of solar energy is one smart approach. Solar panels for schools mean more meaningful spending on what matters most - education.
Featured image credit: 10 10, coourtesy Flickr