Solar Schools Need to Happen!

Right now, thousands of parents who work in offices are enjoying nice, cool air conditioning while their children are sweltering in school.  My own kids are currently in a school that only has partial A/C. My daughter is in a moderately air conditioned room, and my six-year-old asthmatic son is in a sauna. While many school districts are out for the summer, a few still have another week to go.  The main excuse I hear when I ask about the lack of air conditioning in schools is budget.  Well, everyone, there is a way to solve that problem: Solar power.

Solar powered schools are not a new idea. I attended one in the mid 80’s.  Schools across the country are picking up on this wonderful idea, and with good reason! With budget cuts, lack of funding, and parents who are already feeling the crunch of the recession, it is hard for schools to afford everything they need. Here in New York, we have seen major cuts to education, while there are still many unnecessary things being funded.  For example, while schools were reeling from major budget cuts at this time last year, there were still crews going around touching up paint on top of traffic lights. I saw this while walking my children to school one morning, and was outraged that a crew of five people was being paid to make a light pole look shiny where nobody would see it, but teachers were in threat of losing their jobs.

Anyone who pays an electric bill knows the cost of energy is not cheap! Schools have to budget for those energy costs, and while school funding goes up, electricity does not go down.  This is a serious situation.  Well, by installing solar panels, many schools are completely cutting out the cost of electricity, and have been able to keep their teachers.  Our children are the future, people! There is a way to keep them comfortable in their educational environment while providing programs or educators who would have otherwise been cut. Why are more schools not doing this?

I, personally, have been suggesting this repeatedly at our school for the past two years. Every time I do, everyone says something along the lines of “Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice?”  Yes! Yes, it would be nice! It would also be very smart! The next time you feel like scrolling around Google Earth, virtually glide over your local schools.  They can usually be identified as the large, empty roof space in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  That empty space could be transformed into something even better: a power source! In addition to providing power to the local school (and saving the school (and thus the taxpayers) thousands of dollars in energy costs, the surplus energy could go toward helping power the neighborhood.  in fact, many power companies will pay local solar powered facilities for helping to lighten the energy load. This could potentially not only save money for schools, but also to generate revenue that schools desperately need. In addition, it would lessen the possibility of brown outs, power outages, and additional air pollution.

So, why isn’t everyone doing this? The primary answer is cost.  Although installing solar panels on schools would end up paying for itself, some short-sighted cities are likely to see only the cost of the initial installation. Granted, the cost of installation will rise with new tariffs on Chinese-produced solar panels. That said, we all know that many corporations like to sponsor events or programs at schools as a form of advertising.  This is most often seen as vending machines in schools (FYI, beverage companies: most parents find this annoying). Some major companies, however, have programs to promote eco-friendly communities. I feel pretty confident that school districts who approached these companies would find some opportunities for financial assistance in the procurement of solar panels. Sure, the Google Earth view of school rooftops might become an image of solar panels next to a rooftop mural that says “IBM,” but isn’t that worth it to improve the educational environment for your kids? Power companies might also be happy to help, as it would save them money in production costs and give them some desperately needed good PR. Even if the community did not want to go with corporate sponsorship, there is always the possibility of state subsidies for solar installation.

Whether or not you are concerned for the environment, you have to admit that saving money for public schools is a good idea. Schools being able to power air conditioning for little kids who can’t handle the heat? Even better. The time to stop making excuses and start making a change is now! We need solar power for public schools!

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