By David E. Hess | PA Environment Blog | August 22, 2022
Photo: Midd-West School District solar energy installation, Middleburg, Snyder County, Pennsylvania)
On August 19, the Pennsylvania Solar Center and Generation180 – joined with school officials over Zoom to explore how many Pennsylvania school districts are supplying up to 100% of their electricity needs with solar energy, and how schools are investing the cost savings into their students.
Generation180’s “Pennsylvania Solar for All Schools Campaign” is paving the way for all PA schools to switch to solar, and they are partnering with Pennsylvania Solar Center’s G.E.T. Solar program, which provides free technical assistance to guide schools, local businesses, nonprofits, and communities through every step of the solar procurement path.
The PA Solar Center and Generation180 are finding solar energy investments to be extremely cost-effective; with no upfront costs, the schools are achieving impressive cost savings immediately.
In fact, schools, businesses, and nonprofits are finding they can save thousands to millions of dollars in energy costs over the life of their solar system while also reducing their environmental footprint.
During the webinar, Generation180 provided findings from its May 2022 report, “Powering a Brighter Future in Pennsylvania.”
The report found that more than 100 Pennsylvania schools have successfully gone solar, most without paying any upfront capital costs.
The vast majority have benefited from a dramatic reduction in electric bills and are even using solar to enhance STEM education, workforce development, and promote healthier communities.
“There is strong statewide momentum right now behind schools going solar,” said Shannon Crooker, Pennsylvania Director of Generation180. “Over the past two years, school districts across the state have doubled down on solar energy to balance their budgets and save millions in long-term energy costs. We’re also seeing many individuals passionate about clean energy serving as a spark for going solar at schools where they work. We encourage those folks to urge their school leaders to make the switch to solar, and to come talk to us to learn more.”
“Now is an especially great time for schools to go solar, especially with the huge increases in electricity prices and the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act,” said Sharon Pillar, Founder and Executive Director at the PA Solar Center. “Many schools are able to go solar with no money down by taking advantage of partnerships with for-profit entities that can take the tax benefits offered by the federal government. The Inflation Reduction Act that was recently passed by Congress increases existing tax benefits to third party investors who can then pass along the benefits to schools. The third-party investor will often own the solar system on the school property and just charge a greatly reduced electricity price to the school, providing a win-win for all parties involved and saving schools thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the solar system. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act may allow tax-exempt entities to receive a direct payment for purchasing solar since they cannot take the tax benefits themselves.”
The PA Solar Center and Generation180 were also joined by Mick Iskric, Superintendent of Steelton-Highspire School District, who shared their district’s solar success story, which includes a 1.6 megawatt (MW) solar array over an abandoned landfill that provides 100% of their district’s electricity.
Former Superintendent of Midd-West School District and current Education Market Specialist from Greenworks Development, Rick Musselman, also discussed how Midd-West School District installed the largest solar system for a school (2.54 MW) in Pennsylvania and their plans to expand the project to start generating revenue for the district.
In addition, AYA Instruments shared information about their Energy Discovery Zone learning platform, which is designed to bring clean energy to life in the classroom while also providing an opportunity for educators and students to connect with each other around the country.
Schools that go solar wisely recognize that an investment in renewable energy is also an investment in their local communities.
Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers, and manufacturers.
And according to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from the current 0.5 percent goal to 10 percent by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually.
The current 0.5 percent goal flat-lined in May of 2021, but if the state’s General Assembly would increase it, they would boost economic recovery at a crucial time in our history.