“I think schools being part of the shift to clean energy is really important because not only is it an opportunity to have an impact on the environment, but it also impacts the students, it impacts taxpayers, because there's significant cost savings associated with it,” says Shannon Crooker, the Pa. director for Generation 180.
Only 2% of schools in the state, which is a total of 108, produce their own solar power.
According to Crooker and Gen180, there are several ways schools can begin to produce their own solar power with no upfront costs. The report found that 66% of solar projects for schools were financed by third parties, and 61% of Pennsylvania schools with solar are eligible for the Title 1 program, which provides federal financial assistance to schools with low-income students.
Gen180 says it can also provide assistance to those interested in beginning their own journey to producing solar energy.
“If they haven't already started talking to a developer, we're more than open to meeting with them and sharing other stories," says Crooker. "As well, we have the clean energy Leaders Network, which they can come and reach out to any of the superintendents, our facility managers who may have already gone through this process."
Gen180 says Pittsburgh schools could also financially benefit from producing their own solar power.
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission announced that they would be adjusting their prices for electricity on June 1, with some users seeing a "sharp increase in energy costs," ranging between 6% to 45% depending on their electric utility.
“I think right now, it's kind of crucial timing, because electricity prices are going up yet again, like they've gone up significantly in the last couple of years," says Crooker. "And now they're set to increase again."
In addition to financial rewards, Gen180 also lists positive health and environmental benefits. Their report found that the amount of clean electricity schools generate yearly "would offset greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 5,000 gas-powered vehicles off the road."
In 2019, the Woodland Hills School District became the first in the state to pass a school board resolution on climate change, and in September 2021, the district released a climate action plan in which they hope to have zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.
"We believe supporting the teaching of climate change in schools and facilitating youth activism are important ways to combat climate change on a community level," Katie Green, a student at Woodland Hills High School and a member of the school's Climate Action Team, says in the report, "especially since policies put in place today will impact us the most in the future.”