The Solar School Initiative
People are always asking us “What is a Solar School?” The answer is simple: It’s a solar electricity installation at any type of school or education center that uses the solar energy system as a teaching tool and hopefully is designed so the panels are visible from the school grounds.
But still we get a lot questions, the most common being: “What size should the system be?” And with another simple answer, we prefer the systems to be 1 kW. This is why:
A 1 kW is relatively inexpensive and quick to get installed It is easy to install a small 1 kW PV system so that the panels are visible to the students and to the local neighborhood
Since most of our solar school projects are 1 kW in size, it makes it easier for one school to compare their generation with another school
We are not, however, rigid on enforcing that every school installs systems that are exactly the same size. Throughout Illinois, for example, in Apple River, they have a 2 kW system and in Lindenwood, the school has a 4 kW system and in Dixon, the school has a 51 kW system and yet there are more than 90 schools with 1 kW systems.
Many people wonder why we prefer solar electricity systems on schools to be connected to the local power grid, as opposed to stand alone systems that use batteries. The short answer is we have a lot of one, but a few of the other. We like the systems to be grid-tied, connected to the same electricity grid that carries the rest of the electricity to the school, but we do have a few schools that are connected to batteries and power specific electrical devices, just no many. The biggest worry about the stand alone system is the need for a battery. Batteries require maintenance and they can leak acid. So we prefer systems connected to the grid and the building with the electricity flowing around the building at the speed of light and powering whatever the school has turned on rather than the stand alone systems that power specific devices or rooms. But we have both.
On one principle, we try to be as unwavering as possible. We want the panels to be visible from school grounds. When the mechanics make this impossible, we are forced to modify, but if it is at all possible we push hard for the panels to be visible. This is because they will remind each class of students that enters the school that part of their electricity is coming from solar energy. And because the systems will be up for years, each new generation will not know life without just a little bit of solar electricity, and we hope that that little bit goes a long way.
The other point we do not waiver from is the connection to the classroom. These solar electricity systems may reduce the electricity bills of the schools by 1 or 2 percent, but they are important because they are great teaching tools for science and math and history and art. If a school does not believe this type of system can help its teachers and students, then we do not consider it a solar school.
Now having said all of this, we have a FAQ section that goes into more details and we have links to a lot of our solar school installations with pictures and links to their data and contacts.
And for other members of the school’s community, we want everyone to become accustomed to seeing solar panels, (when they walk their dog or drop their child off to school for the first time), as the panels, perched from their position on the school’s rooftop, sit their kind of smiling at everyone like they have a secret.