Schools across California are installing solar power systems to significantly reduce operating expenses. In fact, with assistance from the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the State of California's solar rebate program, K-12 schools and higher education institutions will save an estimated total of $1.5 billion. Schools are using the savings to enrich their curriculum or make needed facilities upgrades. They are also taking the opportunity to educate the next generation about where our energy comes from and the benefits of renewable energy.
The recently launched Solar Schools Program, a partnership between SunPower and California School Board Association (CSBA), is expanding the assistance offered to school districts in developing efficient solar projects at their schools. CSBA is a non-profit representing nearly 1,000 school districts throughout California. The program helps schools save money on energy and effectively utilize federal and state incentives to garner the greatest return on their solar investment.
SunPower was selected by the CSBA as its partner primarily because of our extensive experience working with public schools in California. To date, we’ve installed solar power systems at more than 100 schools across the state. We understand the unique environments in which school administrators and teachers work, and assist school districts by providing them with a complete solar energy system solution including financing, design, construction and long-term operations and maintenance. SunPower is a ‘one-stop-shop’ that provides school districts with a single source of responsibility and expertise, and the most efficient and reliable solar technology available today.
I am frequently asked by administrators if solar would make sense for their school. In response, I give them three questions to consider:
- Do your facilities have available space for a solar installation? Most schools are great candidates for solar because they have underutilized, unshaded rooftop or parking lot space that is perfect for solar.
- How much do you spend on electricity each year? Schools spend a significant amount of their annual operating budgets on electricity, which can be reduced by generating their own solar power during peak demand hours.
- At what times of year are you using the most electricity? Electric usage peaks during the school year. In summer, schools have a lower electric load. In states that have net metering like California, schools can benefit by generating excess electricity during the summer when rates are higher and usage is lower. The power their systems generate is then credited to them at a higher rate than the rate at which they are often consuming the power during the school year.
It’s very rewarding to see a school take advantage of the opportunities to combine a solar project with their educational mission. During a solar installation, many schools supplement their regular curriculum with teaching about sustainability, renewables and solar energy. SunPower supports these efforts by partnering with a group called “Project Lead the Way.” Together, we develop a curriculum that focuses on clean energy practices to inspire the next generation to become involved and support sustainable practices.
If you want to see schools in your area go solar, first learn about your school district’s interest in solar. Then attend a school board meeting and speak up about the benefits of solar and the assistance provided through the Solar Schools Program.
In a recent video interview, I highlighted the work that SunPower is doing with schools, teachers and students to promote solar at California’s schools:
The Solar Schools program is a ground breaking project that not only puts more public school dollars towards students and teachers, but also helps educate high school students on clean technology. To find out more about SunPower’s solar solutions for schools, visit our webpage, or leave a comment below.