School Business Affairs December 2019

20 DECEMBER 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS SCHOOLS & SUSTAINABILITY A Brighter Future: Solar for Schools With the latest advancements, solar energy may be an effective way for schools to save money and contribute to sustainability. By Ryan Stout S olar power has long been touted for its envi- ronmental impact. But with the latest advance- ments in technology and quicker return on investment, solar energy may now be the best way for schools to shine. An estimated 4 million students in the United States attend a school that uses some form of solar power. Nearly 5,500 schools currently use solar energy systems, and that number will continue to increase as solar panel efficiencies improve and manufacturing costs decline, according to a Solar Energy Industries Association 2017 report. A fundamental reason for solar power’s success in K–12 schools is its wide range of benefits: it is clean, stable, and cost-effective. School districts see a reduction in utility costs and contribute to their green initiatives; students and teachers can take advantage of a host of educational opportunities. How Solar Power Works The photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels use particles of light to knock electrons free from atoms and generate a flow of electricity. The resulting electrical current then runs through a device called an inverter, which converts it to usable power in a building. Because of its limited production, solar power is often insufficient to fully meet the requirements of some users and is considered an alternate source. When a solar-powered school exceeds its solar sys- tem’s production, the building alternatively uses elec- tricity supplied by the local utility company. At the end of the billing cycle, the school’s electric bill reflects the total energy consumed minus the electricity that was produced by the solar power system. The sum of the cal- culations is called net metering. Grid-connected systems typically operate via a net metering agreement with the Lake Park West High School, Lake Park HSD 108, Roselle, Illinois. Combined 1.86-megawatt roof top arrays at East and West High Schools will result in $5.1 million in net over 25 years. COURTESY OF PERFORMANCE SERVICES