Solar Grows in U.S. Schools

October 1, 2014

According to a recent census released by the Solar Foundation, installations of photovoltaic systems in American schools have increased significantly, showing a compound annual growth rate of 110% from 2008 to 2012. The report shows that 3,752 K-12 schools are now using some type of solar array with a median system size of 89 kW, which is nearly 18 times the size of the average residential system and saves users up to $77.8 million on electricity each year. This increase coincides with the growth of the solar industry, with the average price of PV installation falling 60% from 2010 to 2014. 

The National Solar Schools Census finds that around 60% of the nation's schools could install solar cost-effectively, with 450 individual school districts capable of saving more than $1,000,000 over 30 years by installing a photovoltaic system. Pointing to the economy of scale, the census also finds a correlation between schools with solar systems relative to the average size of the student population, meaning more high schools than middle schools or elementary schools have solar systems due to their higher population.

In addition to saving on electricity costs, the current solar output generates enough power to offset 50 million gallons of gasoline. According to the report, solar school installations also provide an added benefit in the form of giving students real-world exposure to STEM subjects, piquing science interest, and providing valuable teaching opportunities. 

"Interviews with facilities managers and school administrators across the country show that solar is providing schools with significant cost savings, which has been used to reduce electricity bills, improve education, and retain existing staff and resources in the face of budget cuts," say the authors.