An analysis by clean energy advocates found that two districts in North Carolina could generate 100 percent of their electricity needs—and save millions of dollars over the next 25 years—by installing solar panels.
The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center examined rooftops and parking lots in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County and Durham districts and concluded that each school system has enough space for photovoltaic panels to produce sufficient amounts of power to cover all their electricity consumption.
"The districts could save the most money over the next 25 years by powering schools with ground-mounted photovoltaic solar using a partnership-flip ownership model, which allows schools to obtain the system after seven years of joint ownership with third-party investors," the center says.
The reports on the two districts were commissioned by Repower Our Schools, a coalition of parents, teachers and students advocating for renewable electricity.
Researchers estimated that the cost of energy generated by a solar system during its 25-year life would be 9 percent less than buying the same amount of electricity from a local utility.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg district spent nearly $18 million in 2014-15 to acquire 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity, the center said. The Durham district spent more than $5.7 million in 2014-15 for more than 65 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
The reports also argue that solar energy will become increasingly attractive to budget-conscious districts because costs for photovoltaic systems are expected to decline over time while electric utility rates are expected to climb.