In many ways, schools are a natural fit for solar power: They tend to require electricity only during the day, when the sun is shining, and they often have ample space on their roofs and grounds for solar panels。
More than 5,500 schools across the country have installed solar power arrays to help power their buildings, the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a report last year. That’s about 5 percent of K-12 schools in the United States, and their solar capacity has almost doubled over the past three years, the report says.
“The cost of solar power has come way down, and that’s been the No. 1 driver” of solar in schools, said Ed Gilliland of The Solar Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit that helped produce the report. “Whereas before, there tended to be a lot of small solar power arrays put up for educational purposes, schools are now embracing them as money-saving investments.”
California has led the way, with almost 2,000 schools installing solar panels. But solar power is reaching schools across the country.
Electric buses have been popping up in cities around the world, led by China. Now, school districts in the United States are exploring the option.
There are compelling health reasons to go electric: About 95 percent of the 480,000 school buses in the United States currently run on diesel, exposing children to soot and other harmful pollutants.
But electric buses are still twice or three times as expensive as conventional buses. In theory, schools could recoup some of that money over time through lower fuel and maintenance costs, but the upfront price tag remains a deterrent.