School districts in Virginia are among the latest to explore solar power to both reduce their carbon footprints and save money, The Washington Post reports, thanks to solar power purchase agreements where districts can pay the solar development companies for the energy consumed. That amount is typically less than utility companies charge, the Post notes.
For example, Middlesex County Schools expects to save $50,000 the first year of installation and more as time goes on, while Arlington Public Schools anticipates $4 million in savings over 25 years.
Aside from the cost savings, students concerned about the future are gaining firsthand experience lobbying local officials for the changes, and Fairfax County School Board member Pat Hynes told The Washington Post that the school system has a responsibility to contribute to a better world for students to graduate into.
Building green isn't just good for the environment, it saves money in the long run. That detail has contributed to the commercial building industry becoming more green. In fact, 47% of industry professionals surveyed expect 60% of projects to be green by 2021.
Schools are no different. The U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergySmart Schools report finds that K-12 schools spend more than $8 billion annually on energy, making that the highest operating expenditure for schools after personnel. With that in mind, it makes sense to find ways to cut back these costs as much as possible.
Southern California’s Poway Unified School District, for example, installed panels on 16 campuses to save $250,000 a year. Schools are also using energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems, energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors, day lighting strategies, water-efficient fixtures and lower operations maintenance expenses to save money.
On a less tangible note, green schools may also be healthier for students and staff. And a variety of school building factors have been shown to reduce absenteesim and improve health, thinking and performance.