Illinois Ranks Third in U.S. in Schools Going Solar
With a growing commitment to renewable energy, Illinois now ranks third in the nation in the number of K-12 schools that have turned to solar energy to power their classrooms, save money and help the environment, according to a newly released nationwide study.
Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools was prepared by The Solar Foundation (TSF) – with data and analysis support from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – and funded through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program.
The nascent solar industry in Illinois, which includes nearly 200 companies statewide, has installed solar systems on 268 schools. That places Illinois ahead of sun-rich states such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada, and trailing only California and New Jersey in national rankings.
What’s more, to further increase the use of solar in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into law House Bill 2427, which commits $30 million toward purchasing solar energy to meet a portion of the state’s electric power needs.
The Solar Foundation’s report is the first nationwide assessment of how solar energy helps to power schools in communities across America. Most importantly, the report shows that thousands of schools are already cutting their utility bills by choosing solar, using the savings to pay for teacher salaries and textbooks. The report estimates that more than 70,000 additional schools would benefit by doing the same.
“Solar is enabling many Illinois schools to save money, enrich learning and keep teachers in the classroom – all while providing local jobs and generating emissions-free electricity,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “With five times as many solar schools today than in 2008, it is clear that the solar schools movement is gaining momentum and providing kids with the greatest benefits,” Luecke added.
The comprehensive new study says America’s K-12 schools have shown explosive growth in their use of solar energy over the last decade, soaring from 303 kilowatts (kW) of installed capacity to 457,000 kW, while reducing carbon emissions by 442,799 metric tons annually – the equivalent of saving 50 million gallons of gasoline a year or taking nearly 100,000 cars off U.S. highways.
Here are the report’s key findings:
- There are 3,752 K-12 schools in the United States with solar installations, meaning nearly 2.7 million students attend schools with solar energy systems.
- The 3,727 PV systems have a combined capacity of 490 megawatts (MW), and generate roughly 642,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year, offsetting a combined $77.8 million per year in school energy costs ‒ an average of almost $21,000 per year per school.
- Of the 125,000 schools in the country, between 40,000 and 72,000 can “go solar” cost-effectively.
“An analysis performed for this report found that school districts in Peoria, Bloomington, Galesburg, Pekin, Dunlap and McLean County could each save more than $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar PV system,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “In fact, Peoria alone could save nearly $4 million. That’s a huge amount of money. In a time of tight budgets and rising costs, solar can be the difference between hiring new teachers – or laying them off.”
The new report also found:
- More than 3,000 of the 3,752 systems were installed in the last six years.
- Nearly half of the systems currently installed are larger than 50 kilowatts (kW) and 55 schools have systems that are 1 megawatt (MW) or larger.
- Excluding small demonstration systems, the median system size of K-12 school PV systems was found to be 89 kW (approximately equal to 18 average residential solar PV systems).
As is the case with the solar industry at large, the report found that more schools are going solar as installation costs decrease. According to the SEIA/GTM Research U.S. Solar Market Insight report, national blended average system prices had dropped 53 percent since 2010.
About The Solar Foundation:
The Solar Foundation® (TSF) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research that educates the public and transforms markets. Since 2010, TSF has published its annual National Solar Jobs Census, which established the first credible solar jobs base line for the U.S. The Solar Foundation is considered the nation’s authority on the solar labor force and advises many organizations on the topic. TSF is also a leading provider of educational materials on the economic impacts of solar for local governments through its work with the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, TSF chairs the National Solar Schools Consortium, a group of stakeholders seeking to make solar a larger part of the national K-12 system. More at http://TheSolarFoundation.org
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to champion the use of clean, affordable solar in America by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.
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