Solar Energy Lighting Up Schools

Increasing numbers of schools around the world are taking a leadership role in renewable energy education by installing solar energy systems to help power their campuses, financed by government grants and rebates.

Butte College in California recently unveiled three new solar arrays consisting of 2,400 185-watt Mitsubishi Electric solar panels. The arrays total 450 kW capacity and will generate an estimated 675,000 kWh of solar electricity annually.

Together with an existing rooftop array and additional solar panels to be added soon, the installations will power 10 buildings and save the school an estimated AUD $60,000 a year in energy costs; plus drastically reduce carbon emissions associated with electricity consumption at the school. Butte College intends to become carbon neutral by 2015

As the world’s energy policies are increasingly switching to a focus on renewable energy, schools and colleges are becoming conscious of a need to incorporate curriculum applicable to the sector to better prepare students for careers in the green power generation.

In additional to environmental and financial benefits of Butte College’s system, the school is using the installation in some courses as an educational tool. The solar panels will be used  to show students solar technology at work, just as the green buildings on campus are toured as part of the curriculum. Students will also have the opportunity to disassemble and reassemble solar panels.

The purchase of the solar equipment by Butte College was made possible by the California Solar Initiative rebate. In Australia, schools are able to access generous government grants through the Australian National Solar Schools Program (NSSP). Under the NSSP initiative, nearly every school in Australia is now eligible for a 2-5kW solar power system – with no out of pocket cost. The Australian Government is providing grants of up to $50,000 for the installation of grid connected solar power and in the case of dual campuses, the grant may reach up to $100,000. Further funding may also be available at a state level.