California Top State in School Solar
- By Dian Schaffhauser
new study ranked California first among states for installed solar
capacity at K-12 schools. The project was undertaken by
a nonprofit that addresses clean energy and which is currently
running a "Solar
for All Schools"
campaign to advance clean energy usage in K-12 facilities. According
to the organization, energy is the second largest individual expense
for U.S. schools after personnel.
ranked number one in three categories:
in installed solar capacity at 616 megawatts, an increase of 41
percent since 2017;
in the number of "solar" schools at 2,430, a jump of 25
percent since 2017; and
in the number of students attending a solar school, 2.03 million
installations in California schools contributed to a 139 percent
increase for the entire country of solar installations at schools
since 2014. The state is home to a third of solar schools and 45
percent of the installed capacity.
Jersey came in second across the board, with 182 megawatts in 621
schools, educating 408,000 students.
7,332 schools in 2,231 districts run solar, representing 5.5 percent
of all K-12 public and private schools in the United States. Over the
last five years, K-12 solar capacity has grown by 139 percent. The
number of schools with solar grew by 81 percent. The top five states
for those installations were, in ranked order: California, New
Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Indiana.
states with the fastest growing installed capacity were Indiana,
Virginia and Illinois; each moved from the bottom half of
Generation180's 2014 list to the top 10 in 2019.
was the top state in terms of the percentage of schools with solar
(29 percent); District of Columbia came in second (23 percent of
schools have solar); and Nevada came in third (20 percent).
the bottom of the ranking were eight states, each of which has five
or fewer solar schools and one (South Dakota) that has no solar
of these states (Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma) are also
among the top oil producers in the country.
survey and a report of the findings was developed in partnership with
a nonprofit that advances the use of solar and related technologies
worldwide, and industry organization Solar
Energy Industries Association.
study found that most schools install solar with minimal to no
upfront capital costs. Nearly eight in 10 installations (79 percent)
were financed by a third party. The report noted that California is
one of 28 states that allows for third-party financing of solar
projects. Another 14 percent are owned outright by the districts that
have used bonds, loans, cash or other sources for funding and seven
percent have direct ownership through grants and donations.
authors reported that schools were capitalizing on solar projects not
just to reduce fossil fuel usage, but also to provide students with
STEM learning opportunities, job training and internships. An
increasing number of schools were able to position their solar and
battery storage for usage in emergency situations, to provide backup
power during grid outages.
example, the Santa
Barbara Unified School District
intends to install 4.5 MW of solar shade canopies on 14 sites,
providing up to 94 percent of the district's energy needs. Six of
those sites will have solar-powered microgrids that can provide
backup power when the grid is down, an important consideration in a
state where planned and emergency power outages due to wildfire risks
is a more frequent event. Those measures are just one of several
environment and sustainability initiatives being undertaken by the
is absolutely attainable for all schools--regardless of how sunny or
wealthy it is where you live. Too few schools realize that solar is
something they can take advantage of to save money and benefit
students today," said Wendy Philleo, executive director of
Generation180, in a statement. "Schools that switch to solar can
put energy cost savings toward return-to-school preparations, such as
installing ventilation systems, or toward retaining teachers and
preserving essential programs."
report is available with registration through
the Solar for All Schools website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.