Some 5,489 K-12 schools in the United States—4.4 percent of all public and private schools—use solar energy, nearly double the total solar capacity that was installed at schools in 2014.
That's one of the findings contained in a report released this week by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180.
The report, Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools, 2nd Edition, is the most comprehensive study to date on solar at K-12 schools nationwide attributes the sharp rise in solar energy use to a rapid decline in the cost of installing solar systems. The average price of a solar school installation has dropped 67 percent in the last 10 years, and 19 percent in 2016 alone, the SEIA says in a news release.
“There’s a reason solar is spreading so quickly across America’s school districts, and it’s pretty simple — when schools go solar, the entire community benefits,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “By switching to solar energy, schools immediately see their electric bills go down, leaving more money for learning. Plus, what teacher wouldn’t want a life lesson in science and conservation right there on school grounds? It’s a win all the way around.”
The study says that nearly 4 million students attend U.S. schools that employ solar power. The combined capacity of those systems—910 megawatts—is 86 percent greater that the capacity of school solar systems in 2014.
California is the state with the most solar schools—1,946 schools and a 489-megawatt capacity. Nevada has the highest adoption rate—23 percent of schools in the state use solar energy.
In addition to lower installation costs, schools have more financing options that minimize up-front investment in solar systems, the study found. In recent years, most schools have paid for their solar installations through power purchase agreements, in which a third party finances, builds, owns and maintains the system. This enables schools and districts to buy solar with minimal initial cost.
The SEIA is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. The Solar Foundation is a nonprofit organization seeking to accelerate the use of solar power. Generation 180 is a nonprofit organization working to spread awareness about energy choices.