How North Carolina Schools Could Save Millions (Hint: With Solar)
Originally published on CleanTechnica.
Below are highlights from two new reports commissioned by the Repower Our Schools Coalition. The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NC CETC) released information that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools & Durham Public Schools would conserve millions of dollars with solar power, while promoting more STEM education potential for the students. Along with the saved money, the schools would meet 100% of their electricity needs from a non-emitting energy source. The schools’ solar panels would “save millions over the next 25 years” … if installed immediately.
Greenpeace explains that developments in solar policies in the state, such as the allowance of third-party energy sales and upgrades to net metering policy, make it doable for CMS to save “$54.6 million and DPS to save $16.3 million over 25 years.” That comes to an 11% savings. Translation — money for classrooms, for quality teachers, for aspiring students, and all hand in hand with environmental goals.
Here’s an infographic illustrating the benefits of third-party sales and metering from repowerourschools.com:
Education is intrinsic with solutions to ecological ills. Schools should be some of the first places to make the clean energy transition.
“This assessment shows that it is absolutely possible to meet the electricity needs of both Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Durham school districts with solar installations at schools,” said Clean Air Carolina Program Director Terry Lansdell. “By doing so, we can save schools significant funding over the next 25 years to reinvest in our students, teachers, and the classroom.”
Assessing multiple scenarios and identifying options that were a win economically and a win environmentally, the reports determined that “under current policies, the districts could save the most money over the next 25 years by powering schools with ground-mounted PV solar through a partnership-flip financing model. After seven years, the school will benefit again from a joint ownership with third-party investors.”
The savings of the school districts potentially increases 14 times, if the areas utilize enhanced net metering and power purchase agreements through policy improvements. The US EPA cites utility bills as the second largest cost for school districts. EcoWatch notes, “North Carolina is one of only a handful of states with a legal gray area that effectively blocks purchasing electricity from anyone but the utility.” It is one if only 5 states that prohibit third-party energy sales. So, clearly, it would benefit these schools if the state came out of the stone ages and made this type of solar purchasing an option.
Career building of the future is not a small part of this important clean energy change. Renewable energy jobs are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our country’s economic and ecological well-being. “Solar installations at North Carolina schools would bring the jobs of tomorrow into the classroom today,” said Dr. Wafa Khalil, a retired science and energy teacher of 23 years. “Teachers could incorporate solar into the curriculum and let students witness its advantages firsthand.”
“The money saved over 25 years with third-party energy sales, and net metering improvements are equal to 1,357 annual starting teacher salaries for CMS and 414 for DPS, which is a substantially smaller school district.” Teachers as a resource for the youth of our country are exhaustible. Wiser renewable policy allows for more reciprocity for hardworking educators as well. Perhaps some of those savings could go to better compensating teachers and/or hiring more of them.
“We continue to see interest from parents, teachers and students across North Carolina in going solar,” said Greenpeace North Carolina Field Organizer Michael Zytkow. “As the calls for 100 percent renewable energy continue to grow, it is only a matter of time before we see solar powering schools across the state.”
The Repower Our Schools coalition launched in January 2015. The coalition brings together and supports empowering parents, teachers, and students who benefit from clean energy and energy efficiency.
Images via Repower Our Schools Report