Schools and colleges have been one of the biggest supporters of solar energy, as many education organizations already use photovoltaic power to keep their operations running and to inform students about clean energy. According to Greentech Media Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), more than 500 schools in 43 states have so far installed PV panels, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“It really is one of the fastest-growing markets and probably will have the most impact in our society, because it will put money back into more teachers and expand education,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, according to the WSJ.
Not only are more and more schools turning to solar power, but they are doing so in unique ways that maximize the energy source’s potential for each institution.
Pennsylvania University’s Solar Energy Umbrellas
Instead of installing rooftop photovoltaic equipment, Temple University in Philadelphia put in modules on top of picnic tables. The three installations, which went online on August 22, feature panels on top of awnings. Their purpose is to educate students about solar energy while also being a convenient location for charging computers and cellphones, Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI reported.
“We wanted to implement this tool so it could be at a human scale,” Kathleen Grady, Temple’s sustainability coordinator, said to WPVI. “Students can interact with solar, see solar, how it works, where the power comes from, and how much power is actually generated.”
While the picnic table installations are unique, other organizations in the Northeast have completed similar projects. The ABC affiliate reported that the University of Rochester in New York also provides its students with solar energy tables.
Largest School District Solar Energy Program in the United States
Jurupa Unified School District recently put in one of the largest U.S.-based PV power projects ever completed for a K-12 school system. The southern California solar installation has a combined 2.7-megawatt capacity, with panels located at 27 school locations spread over nine campuses. The modules are expected to reduce energy bills by about 26 percent, saving the school district more than $34 million.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for environmentally sustainable operations at Jurupa Unified School District – one that allows the community to experience the benefits of clean power without negatively impacting limited resources,” Elliott Duchon, the school district’s superintendent, said in a statement.
The solar modules, installed over parking lots and on shade structures, have the capacity to offset the release of more than 3,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide and will provide clean energy to the estimated 20,000 children in the district.