A new study from Stanford University looked at the benefits of installing solar panels on the rooftops of schools. According to the study, taking advantage of all the viable space for solar panels could allow schools to meet up to 75% of their electricity needs and reduce the education sector’s carbon footprint by as much as 28%.
Given the long list of spending priorities for schools, solar power seems like a luxury item. But the Department of Energy estimates that K-12 schools spend more than $6 billion a year on energy and, in many districts, energy costs are second only to salaries. In the higher education sector, yearly energy costs add up to more than $14 billion. In total, educational institutions account for approximately 11% of energy consumption by U.S. buildings and 4% of the nation’s carbon emissions.
The Stanford study suggests that investments in the right solar projects combined with the right incentives from states could free up much-needed money in school budgets.
To no surprise, the study finds that three large, sunny states – Texas, California, and Florida – have the greatest potential for generating electricity from solar panels on school rooftops.
Apart from measurable effects on air pollution and electricity bills, solar installations at schools can also provide new learning opportunities for students. In fact, some schools are already using data from their on-site solar energy systems to teach students basic ideas about fractions, as an example, as well as more sophisticated concepts such how shifting solar panel angles can affect power production.
According to the study, nearly all states could reap value from school solar projects.
What happens when schools go solar?
Photo, posted February 28, 2011, courtesy of Black Rock Solar via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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