Energy Matters: SOS: Schools on Solar

by Michael Brown

There is an SOS coming from communities across the nation: Save Our Schools. With the rise of new financing tools like power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the right support from the public and politicians, we believe we have an answer: Schools On Solar.

Schools nationwide are in dire fiscal straits and have been forced to make hard financial decisions to stay afloat – usually by shutting down an increasingly comprehensive list of classes, skimping on materials and shutting down operations.

We believe that solar power options like PPAs can recharge our ailing schools, help plan regular, measured payments that put resources and financial support back into schools’ hands, and save them money in the future.

Traditionally, implementing solar systems at educational facilities presents a laundry list of problems: many public schools don’t have the available resources to make use of capital budgets, can’t gain the support for bond measures including solar systems or can’t run a buying process on existing staffing and budgets in order to purchase and maintain a solar installation. RFP management, architectural design and proper evaluation of alternative energy paths are a time-consuming and expensive proposition, making it difficult to go solar. The costs and efforts of system maintenance and monitoring – combined with uncertainty around system generation – further complicate the process.

These contributing factors all cause administrators and facility managers to be initially cautious and slow to move on investments like solar energy.

But we have found that these same administrators are financially creative people who understand the financial benefits of solar. And they want to see progress. Their bottom line is often that solar companies have to deliver more than an environmentally-friendly project. They have to be financially sound and save the district money from day one.

Enter Power Purchase Agreements.

PPAs can help schools precisely predict what their power costs can be – through fixed cost energy pricing – so they can better guage spending that might otherwise go to increased electricity costs.

By utilizing available tax and rebate incentives, PPA providers can offer schools a rate of power that’s competitive with existing utility rates and potentially save schools money in the future. Meanwhile, solar installers handle the design, installation and paperwork involved, removing extra labor on the school’s behalf.

Options like a Solar PPA make for a strong argument for saving schools money and protecting the environment.

Michael Brown is the EPC director for EcoDepot USA and can be reached at (719) 539-6000 or