New census shows that solar energy is big in U.S. schools

Published on: 
24 Sep 2014
Anisa Heming

The Solar Foundation (TSF) and its research partners at SEIA just released the National Solar Schools Census, and it's chock-full of information about solar energy use in our nation's schools.

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC aims to support all schools in becoming healthy, safe and resource-efficient places for teaching and learning, and putting numbers to the accomplishments of U.S. schools is getting more and more important.

According to the census, more than 3,700 solar energy systems exist on K-12 schools in the U.S., and nearly 2.7 million students are in daily contact with the technology.

Other interesting facts include:

  • The 490 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic solar capacity already installed on American schools generate roughly 642,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year. This is equivalent to $77.8 million worth of utility bills and enough clean, renewable energy to offset 50 million gallons of gasoline
  • Right now, of the 125,000 schools in the country, up to 72,000 (60%) of them could go solar cost-effectively. If those schools were to go solar, the combined electricity generation would offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking approximately 1 million passenger vehicles off the road.
  • Solar is catching on in schools: Between 2008 and 2012, solar installations on U.S. schools experienced a compound annual growth rate of 110%.
  • From 2010 to 2014, the average price of commercial PV solar installation has fallen by more than 50%.
  • Excluding small demonstration systems, the median system size of K-12 school PV systems is 89 kW—approximately equal to 18 average residential installations. The largest installed school installation is 6.1 MW at The Lawrenceville School, in Lawrenceville, NJ. By itself, this private school would rank number 10 in the list of top school districts.
  • The district with the most installed solar is the Los Angeles Unified School District, with 14.6 MW of solar capacity, saving them $2.3 million per year on their energy bill. Outside of California, Scottsdale Unified District in Arizona has installed the most solar, with 7.9 MW

We often talk about solar energy systems as great teaching tools for students because they give students access to real-world science and math learning experiences.

The National Solar Schools Census lends additional weight to implementing renewable energy in our schools by quantifying the results and potential benefits of being smart about energy strategies for these important public landmarks and community centers.

Downloading the report