Richmond, VA public schools go solar on 10 campuses. A $100,000 grant will also support a sustainability associate to bring energy education into the classroom.
Richmond Public Schools Start Strong this School Year with Solar
This past week, Richmond Public schools announced that ten school campuses will receive on-site solar energy systems through Secure Futures.
This solar installation was made possible by the RVA Solar Fund, which awarded RPS with a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation. This money will be put towards a new Sustainability Associate position at RPS and the purchase and installation of on-site energy monitoring equipment at select schools.
Liz Doerr, District 1 School Board representative, wrote the grant for this project and shared the school division’s news release, giving more details.
Solar Savings for Schools
Financing the installation is made possible by financing from Secure Futures, which allows no upfront capital costs to RPS through a Power Purchase Agreement. Under the PPA, the company will own and operate the solar arrays on several campuses with a total capacity of 2.87 megawatts, selling 100% of the solar power produced to the school division at a savings. RPS will be buying solar power, not solar panels, at a rate lower than what they are currently paying to Dominion.
School Board Member Doerr noted that the installation will be saving the district “approximately $2M in energy costs over the next 20 years” thanks to the PPA through Secure Futures, as well as bringing excellent hands-on curriculum to students and teacher at RPS.
Opening Doors to the Clean Energy Economy
The new Sustainability Associate position at RPS will use data from the solar panels’ energy monitoring system and offer insights to faculty and students. Faculty and students alike will learn about the environmental and economic benefits that solar energy provides to the nation’s electrical grid.
There is reason to believe this classroom work on energy will spark students’ interest in solar power at a young age, and give students a head start in the field of renewable energy, one of the most dynamic industries in our economy today. “Virginia has 97,700 people working in advanced energy across the state,” and is currently the fastest-growing industry in the nation, according to Virginia Advanced Energy Economy. Hands-on exposure to solar technology will help students at Richmond schools prepare for careers in clean energy.
“These days, school systems across the country have to do more with less,” said Secure Futures CEO Tony Smith. “Fortunately, going solar can help. Of course, making their own clean energy right on campus will help Richmond schools advance their goals for community engagement, the pursuit of excellence, and social and economic equity. On-site solar will also cut schools’ electricity bills, yielding budget savings that Richmond schools can apply to teacher salaries and facilities improvements.”
As a leader, Richmond’s on-site solar installation will hopefully inspire other Virginia schools to follow their lead and realize their own educational and economic opportunities through an on-site solar installation.
— Nicole Duimstra, Secure Futures Solar