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3 reasons why solar PV is right for your school

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School authorities are tapping into Alberta’s solar advantage by making school roofs available for onsite solar electricity generation. They are reducing utility costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and teaching students about renewable energy. Here are the top three reasons why a solar photovoltaic (PV) system is right for your school.

Reason #1. Provide STEAM learning opportunities for students   

Installing solar PV systems on school roofs provides students with hands-on STEAM learning opportunities. This helps students develop the environmental and energy literacy skills needed to succeed in a world that is de-carbonizing, and shifting towards renewable energy sources.

Note: STEAM Education is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.

Renewable energy topics can be incorporated into many different curriculum areas including physics, chemistry, math, and biology, as well as problem solving, project management, economics, energy systems, safety, and risk management. This recent report by Alberta’s Education Task Force, outlines key curriculum areas needed to foster robust environmental and energy literacy in students, preparing them to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

“Schools should prepare us for the future, not the past. The future of the world will be built on sustainability. If we learn what sustainable technologies are available when we are in school, we will be able to help shape the future of global sustainability when we graduate.” 

-Quinn, student at Jasper Place High School in Edmonton
Students from Cochrane High School with their solar PV array.
Photo credit: Cochrane High School.

Students in Alberta are already demonstrating leadership. The Cochrane High Sustainable Development Committee installed a 50 kW solar PV system on their school, accessing a rebate from the Solar for Schools Program. Students led all aspects of the project, from the initial idea, to fundraising, project management, liaising with solar contractors, and presenting to Town Council and the school superintendent.

Reason #2. Reduce your electricity costs for years to come

Alberta has some of the best access to solar energy in Canada, and significantly more than other world leaders in solar energy solutions, like Germany. Solar PV in Alberta can produce a lot of electricity, reduce your energy bills, and create a buffer against future utility rate increases. The price of installing solar PV has also decreased considerably in recent years making it more affordable.

Solar production potential per year (kWh/kW installed) across Canada, as compared to Germany, a global leader in solar PV installations. Source: energydata.info

For example, a 100 kW solar PV system installed on a school in Alberta could potentially generate 120,000 kWh per year and reduce annual electricity costs by $9,600 (assuming production of 1,200 kWh per kW DC installed and using an average electricity rate of $0.08/kWh). At a cost of approximately $165,000 this system would be eligible for a $82,500 rebate from the Solar for Schools Program and could expect a simple payback of less than 10 years!

The Action Centre’s Solar For Schools Program provides rebates on a $/W installed basis that cover up to 50% of the total costs of solar PV systems installed on Charter, Public, Separate, and Francophone schools in Alberta (check your eligibility here). This helps to ensure investments in solar and student education pay themselves off years sooner. 

Solar PV systems have little to no annual maintenance costs and their minimum expected lifetime exceeds 25 years. This means that by including a solar PV project in their budget planning, this school is guaranteed long-term annual savings, freeing up money for other school priorities.

Reason #3. Climate action and environmental sustainability

Generating renewable electricity on site is a meaningful way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions given Alberta’s emissions-intensive electricity grid. The electricity generated by the solar PV array example outlined above would offset electricity generated by conventional sources, reducing the school’s annual emissions by 64 tonnes CO2e. This is the same as taking 13 cars off the road every year the system operates.

Our youth will experience some of the greatest impacts of climate change in their lifetimes yet only 9% of them believe that the world will act quickly enough to address the issue. The Solar for Schools Program is a great opportunity to show students that their school is committed to educating and empowering the next generation for the transition to a low carbon future.

Not sure how to start? Check out these resources:

Find more resources in the Learning Centre.

Ready to take action for your school?

Submit a Solar for Schools Program Expression of Interest