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More Higher Education Institutions Turn to Solar Energy

Tuesday, December 18th 2012 3:19 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
 More Higher Education Institutions Turn to Solar Energy Colleges and universities across the United States are increasingly using solar energy to power buildings and facilities in an effort to "go green" and save green. Some public institutions are facing budget cuts, and solar installations have proven to be a smart investment that leads to lower electric bills.

Specifically in California, schools are looking to solar energy as a way to deal with smaller budgets while still being able to afford teacher salaries and attract top talent. A recent Forbes article reported that many schools throughout the state are turning to low-interest loans for renewable energy systems, as well as state rebates available for PV installations, to make the projects a smarter choice. Money saved from lower energy bills as a result of the solar installations are easily used to pay back those loans, one expert said in the article.

“In California especially, schools are having budgets cut for the third, fourth, fifth year in a row and are looking for ways to make up shortfalls in their general fund budgets by using capital dollars," the article stated.

For example, at Laney College in Oakland, California, school officials expect a recently installed solar project to save the college about $20,000 every month on electricity costs, according to Forbes.

"[T]he primary target in installing these systems is to have more money available to provide education, which, at the end of the day, is our mission,” said Charles Neal, the environmental sustainability manager for Peralta Community College District in the Bay Area, which Laney College is a part of.

Another California solar installation, at the Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, is expected to save the school more than $12 million in electricity costs over the next 25 years. The 1.5 megawatt ground-mounted PV solar system will provide about a third of the campus' energy needs.

Colorado College Saves with Solar
The Colorado College in Colorado Springs has installed multiple solar arrays on top of its buildings. The systems range from 14 kilowatts to 19 kW. Two of the systems, like the 19 kW solar array on the college's Children's Center, will help the school meets its goal to be carbon neutral by 2020, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reported. The 17.2kW PV system on the roof of the Colorado College radio station is expected to produce 10 percent of the building's energy needs, lowering electricity bills, according to a news story on the college's website.

Pennsylvania College Sees Benefit of Solar Energy
Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania recently installed solar panels in a nearby solar garden. The school's website said the panels will help offset the power consumed by several of its buildings' emergency lighting and other backup systems.

Along with a reduced carbon footprint and electricity cost savings, the college said the solar panels will provide an educational opportunity for students and the community.

"They are placed at ground level so onlookers can see the technology up close and there are already discussions underway for faculty members to incorporate the panels into course work," the website stated.

Bi-College News reported the 12 solar panels have an expected lifetime of 30 years, and the college expects a quick return on their investment. The college's assistant director of facilities, Jim McGaffin, said the college is an ideal spot to install a solar system to educate people about the benefits of solar and encourage others to install their own systems.

"[A] college campus is a good place to showcase the technology and inspire people," he said.

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