Roanoke County Schools Go Green with Solar Energy

Roanoke County Schools Go Green with Solar Energy

Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) is taking a major step towards sustainability by installing solar panels on seven of its school buildings. The project, which is expected to save the district millions of dollars in energy costs, is part of a larger initiative to reduce the environmental impact of the schools and educate students about renewable energy.

Solar Power Purchase Agreement

RCPS has signed a 25-year Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Secure Solar Futures (SSF), a Virginia-based company that provides on-site clean energy to schools, hospitals, and businesses. Under the PPA, SSF will own, operate, and maintain the solar panels, and sell the electricity generated back to the school district at a lower rate than the current utility provider. The PPA also includes a solar technician training program for high school students, which will offer them hands-on experience and career opportunities in the solar industry.

The solar panels will be installed on the roofs of Cave Spring High School, Cave Spring Middle School, Hidden Valley High School, Hidden Valley Middle School, Penn Forest Elementary School, Clearbrook Elementary School, and the RCPS Central Office. The total capacity of the solar system will be 1.8 megawatts, which is enough to power about 300 homes. The installation is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

Roanoke County Schools Go Green with Solar Energy

Benefits of Solar Energy

The solar project will bring multiple benefits to RCPS and the community. According to the district, the solar panels will save RCPS $8.7 million in energy costs over the 25-year contract, and reduce its carbon footprint by 1,600 metric tons of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to taking 340 cars off the road. The solar project will also support the district’s curriculum and instruction goals, by providing students with real-world examples of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts and skills.

RCPS Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely said that the solar project is a win-win situation for the district and the environment. “We are always looking for ways to improve our facilities and operations, and this solar project is a great opportunity to do that. Not only will we save money on our utility bills, but we will also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and educate our students about the benefits of renewable energy. This is a smart and responsible way to use our resources and prepare our students for the future.”

Solar Trend in Virginia

RCPS is not the only school district in Virginia that is embracing solar energy. According to a report by Generation180, a nonprofit that advocates for clean energy in schools, Virginia ranked fourth in the nation for the most solar schools in 2020, with 226 schools having solar installations. The report also found that solar schools in Virginia have a combined capacity of 51 megawatts, which can power over 8,000 homes.

Some of the factors that have contributed to the growth of solar schools in Virginia include the availability of PPA options, the declining cost of solar technology, the increasing demand for green energy, and the support from state and local policies. In 2020, Virginia passed the Clean Economy Act, which sets a goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, and requires utilities to offer incentives for solar projects. In addition, several counties and cities in Virginia have adopted resolutions to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 or 2035, including Roanoke City, which approved its climate action plan in 2023.

SSF spokesperson Erik Curren said that Virginia is a leader in solar education, and that his company is proud to partner with RCPS and other school districts in the state. “Virginia is showing the rest of the country how solar energy can benefit schools and communities. By installing solar panels on their buildings, schools can save money, reduce emissions, and inspire the next generation of clean energy leaders. We are honored to work with RCPS and help them achieve their sustainability and educational goals.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *