Renewable energy production is taking off in the Keystone State. A new report from the nonprofit Generation180 reveals that Pennsylvania schools doubled their solar power capacity over the last two years of the Pandemic. This not only helped the planet but also the schools’ bottom line and education.
This increase in solar capacity is spread across 108 Pennsylvania schools that serve over 88,000 students. This brought the solar power production of Pennsylvania schools to 28.8 megawatts by the beginning of this year. The increased solar capacity of these schools is enough to offset the pollution of 5,000 gas-powered cars.
According to Generation180’s director, Shannon Crooker, Pennsylvania could reach 50 megawatts of solar capacity in the next five years if it stays on this path. “It’s a really great time to go solar in Pennsylvania,” she told The Grist Beacon.
What was it, though, that made purchasing solar panel installations so affordable for schools in the last two years?
Power purchase agreement
This solar growth has been largely attributed to power purchase agreements (PPAs), a third-party ownership model that is growing in popularity. How it works is that a third-party solar developer benefits from the tax credit to install and maintain a solar system. Meanwhile, schools are ineligible for the tax credit, so they pay the solar developer for the energy produced and usually wind up spending less than they would with a normal utility company. This lasts for the duration of the agreement, usually about five years.
Almost 75 percent of Pennsylvania schools’ solar systems were obtained via a PPA. These agreements offer the schools huge savings which are then passed on to the children’s education. It also provides about 95 percent of the schools’ energy and will save approximately $95 million over the next 40 years.
Additionally, these solar panel systems give children an excellent STEM-learning opportunity, gaining education in renewable resources, and clean-jobs training.