Solar energy systems are a natural fit for schools. And thanks to the many benefits that renewable photovoltaic power offers, educational installations are on the rise.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), U.S. schools collectively had 303 kilowatts of photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2003. By the end of 2013, that number increased to a whopping 457,000 kW.
Schools in the Intermountain West states are following this trend. The SEIA report says that 147 Nevada schools are powered by photovoltaic energy. Utah follows with 98, and Colorado has 84. Idaho has 23 solar-powered schools and Wyoming has 3, but PV installations are on the upswing in both states.
So what is it about solar energy that the education industry loves so much?
Energy costs are high for many school districts. Consequently, unlimited free power generated by the sun can deliver huge cost savings when compared to grid-generated power.
With a modestly sized solar array, cost savings are correspondingly modest. For some school systems, however, the cost savings provided by larger solar energy systems can be staggering.
Milford High School in rural Utah has a small 10 kW photovoltaic array, and saves roughly $1,500 per year. But according to the SEIA report, 450 of the districts studied could save more than $1 million each over the course of 30 years by investing in a photovoltaic energy system.
School sites are typically large enough to accommodate a large solar panel array.
Photovoltaic panels can easily be installed on the rooftop at many locations. Or if the rooftop is not a practical option due to structural or shading issues, a photovoltaic panel system can be ground-mounted.
One of the most common mounting sites used by schools today is parking canopies. These structures are ideal for supporting large photovoltaic panel arrays while providing valuable shade for staff vehicles and school buses.
Students in the United States lag behind many other countries in both math and science. By installing solar PV arrays, schools can expand their educational opportunities, helping students make greater strides in the STEM subjects.
Teachers can incorporate their school’s photovoltaic system into STEM-related lesson plans for students at any grade level. Giving students the chance to explore solar power with a real-world example provides a unique opportunity to develop skills in using math and science to solve problems in everyday life.
In fact, financial incentives are available in many U.S. locations for solar schools, or those that use PV systems as teaching tools as well as lucrative energy sources.
Thousands of schools across the country have already adopted photovoltaic energy. For more information on photovoltaic installations in Idaho, Utah and the surrounding states, contact Intermountain Wind & Solar today. As the region’s leading renewable energy contractor, we have the knowledge and experience to bring cost-effective solar energy systems to schools throughout the Intermountain West.
"All of the photos on this website are of real projects that Intermountain Wind & Solar has designed and installed.
We are proud to show off and stand behind our work."