A new study from clean energy nonprofit Generation180 ranks Arizona third among states for installed solar capacity at K-12 schools. The adoption of solar by Arizona schools contributed to a 139% increase nationwide in the amount of solar installed on schools since 2014 according to the new report, which Generation180 developed in partnership with The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Nationally, Arizona ranks:
- 3rd in installed solar capacity at 125 megawatts, an increase of 11% since 2017;
- 4th in number of solar schools at 400; an increase of 8% since 2017;
- 5th in number of students attending a solar school at 270,333 students.
School districts across the country are reaping millions of dollars in saved energy costs from going solar, which are crucial as they adapt to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
The study finds that the vast majority of schools go solar with minimal to no upfront capital costs. According to the report, 79% of the solar installed on schools was financed by a third party, which allows schools and districts, regardless of the size of their budget, to purchase solar energy and receive immediate energy cost savings. Arizona is one of the 28 states that allows third-party financing for solar.
Energy costs are the second largest expense for U.S. schools after personnel. Report authors note that school districts can save significantly on energy costs over time. For example, the Tucson Unified School District will save an estimated $43 million on energy costs over 20 years. The district’s 23.8 megawatt solar project is the largest among K-12 districts in the state.
“Solar is absolutely attainable for all schools—regardless of how sunny or wealthy it is where you live. Too few schools realize that solar is something they can take advantage of to save money and benefit students today,” said Wendy Philleo, executive director of Generation180.
“Schools that switch to solar can put energy cost savings toward return-to-school preparations, such as installing ventilation systems, or toward retaining teachers and preserving essential programs,” she added.
Report Highlights Strong Growth of Solar Schools Nationwide
Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools finds that solar programs have been implemented at 7,332 schools nationwide, which represents 5.5% of all K-12 public and private schools in the United States. Over the last 5 years, the number of schools with solar increased by 81%, reaching a total of 5.3 million students. The top five states — California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Indiana — helped drive this growth.
Schools are also capitalizing on solar projects to provide students with hands-on STEM learning opportunities, job training, and internships for solar careers. In addition, schools with solar and battery storage can also serve as emergency shelters and provide backup power during grid outages, which not only prevents classroom disruptions but also serves as a vital resource for communities during natural disasters.
This third edition of Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools provides the most comprehensive study to date on solar uptake and trends at public and private K-12 schools nationwide and includes several school case studies. The report website includes an interactive map of solar schools across the nation, along with other resources to help school districts go solar.
This fall, Generation180 is co-hosting the National Solar Tour with Solar United Neighbors to showcase school solar projects and provide a platform for leaders to share about the benefits of solar. Learn more at https://generation180.org/national-solar-tour/.