Solar panels save money and are step toward greener schools

September 9, 2019 — by Leo Cao

As students pull in and out of the parking lot on hot days, it’s hardly surprising that they sometimes look with envy on the shade in the parking lots of the neighboring Prospect and Lynbrook High Schools. The key difference? Those schools have gone solar and the panels provide shaded parking.

As solar energy has entered the mainstream during the past decade, numerous corporations and institutions have switched to solar power, realizing the amount of money they would be saving. Saratoga High would also gain a lot from the switch, including lower energy costs, many environmental benefits and learning opportunities for students.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that K-12 schools spend more than $6 billion per year on energy. Energy costs in most districts are second only to empl. Much of the energy costs can be covered with solar panels.

Significant declines in the prices of solar power has made it viable for both public and private schools to implement the technology. Numerous schools are reducing their electricity bills, leaving more money to spend on educational programs. Moreover, schools then have the option to incorporate renewable energy into their curriculum.

Although there is a considerable installation cost, the upfront costs of the majority of school solar projects are funded through power purchase agreements, which allow a third-party solar company to install panels and sell the power to the school. The school does not have to purchase any equipment, the agreement simply ensures the company will supply solar electricity to the facilities at a known price for a long time.

In a time where climate change and environmental health are major concerns, a clean energy that is responsible for little to no pollution is a large step in the right direction. 

Another benefit is that students will have access to the innovation at their fingertips. Many schools who have solar panels are incorporating the technology into their classes. 

STEM classes can easily be geared towards lessons on solar energy. Students can research energy and the environment, mock up their own solar arrays, and even learn how the systems are installed. With opportunities for a more interactive curriculum, science and math classes will have a more enriching and captivating environment. 

The solar industry is growing rapidly and cheaper prices are making it much more practical for schools. Numerous schools in the Bay Area have made the switch and an investment in the technology will be vastly beneficial to Saratoga High School. 

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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