October 16, 2020 • Inhabitat

Arkansas schools save millions by adopting solar power

Schools in the U.S. are using solar energy to cut down on expensive electricity bills. With funds freed up, schools can then improve the quality of education. As a report by Generation180 shows, over 7,300 schools use the solar power approach to save on utility bills.

Generation180 is a non-profit organization that champions green energy. The group’s 2019 report indicates that about 16% of U.S. school districts had installed solar panels with a capacity to generate 1,337 megawatts of power. 

One little-known Arkansas school district leads the way in adopting green energy. Once a cash-strapped area, the district has been able to generate surplus income by using solar energy. Batesville School District includes six schools that serve about 3,200 students. Just a few years ago, the school district struggled to retain its teachers due to high power bills. In 2017, the schools faced a possible shutdown due to an annual power bill of over $600,000. However, the school district managed to overturn its fortunes by adopting a solar power project. 

After conducting an audit, the district realized it could save up to $2.4 million in 20 years if they installed 1,400 solar panels and energy-efficient lights/gadgets. According to Superintendent Michael Hester, the district chose this approach in a bid to increase teachers’ salaries.

“Let’s use that money to start pumping up teachers’ salaries,” Hester said “It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff. And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.”

Adopting the new initiative allowed the schools to transform their $250,000 annual deficit to a $1.8 million annual surplus. As a result, teachers’ salaries have increased by $2000 to $3000.

According to Generation180, if all public schools in the U.S. adopted green solar energy, the education sector could reduce emissions equivalent to that produced by 18 coal power plants. However, many factors stand in the way of such a feat. Some factors that make the process complicated include lack of proper policy and financing. In some cases, the problem comes from communities reluctant to take steps in adopting non-conventional energy sources. 

+ Generation180

Via Energy News