Other than homes, school facilities are good candidates for solar conversion. Installing solar panels on the school roofs is an ideal way to trim the school’s budget for utility costs without negatively impacting the student experience. If anything, this initiative sets a good example for students to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. But is it worth the cost? Can solar panels supply enough energy to buildings 24/7?
To find out whether a solar conversion is truly beneficial for schools, it pays to look at their energy costs.
How Much Do Schools Pay for Energy?
The Department of Energy reports that the K-12 sector alone spends six billion dollars on energy bills annually. This is higher than what the schools usually spend on textbooks and computers each year. The energy costs are also the schools’ second-highest expenditure after teachers’ and staff’s salaries.
The energy bills may even go higher if the school buildings are old and not energy efficient. These schools spend more electricity than what is needed in a day. Modern technology and a higher population of students today have also significantly increased the energy loads school buildings must meet yearly.
Is it High Time for All Schools to Switch to Solar Power?
Installing solar roof panels on schools, particularly large campuses, may come with a huge upfront cost. Also, the amount of money a school can save with this initiative can vary depending on different factors, including school location, energy demands, and the type of solar power system.
But schools across the country, including those located in Arizona and Salt Lake City, Utah, have reported the many benefits of solar power. One of which is the significant savings they enjoy each year.
In one study, the Solar Energy Industries Association found that around 4,000 K-12 schools in the US with solar installations generate power in a combined value of $77.8 million each year. This is enough to cover the salaries of around 2,000 new teachers or 150,000 new tablet computers for students to use.
Another economic benefit of solar conversion is reliable, consistent energy pricing. Schools no longer have to deal with electricity costs that may fluctuate every month, which also makes it difficult for them to estimate expenses year to year. Stability in energy pricing gives schools the ability to project their expenses more accurately, allowing them to invest in technology or tools that can improve their programs.
Are There Benefits Other Than Energy Cost Savings?
Solar conversion offers indirect benefits to schools. As mentioned, switching to solar power sets a good example for students to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. Since solar panels are a visible addition to school buildings, they provide a good starting point for showing students how science concepts, such as solar energy, apply to everyday life. And if solar panels serve as a source of back-up power, schools can keep the facilities running during emergency conditions. This is a great benefit, especially if the school serves as a designated evacuation center during a storm or other tragedies that affect the community.
With all these benefits, it’s high time for schools to consider installing solar panels on their roof. With a large installation, it may be possible for school buildings to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. But even if they start on a few panels or one to three buildings, they will still likely enjoy the true power of solar energy.