The United States Department of Energy (DOE) released a report last month with information on financing solar installations for schools. The report, titled “Solar Schools Assessment and Implementation Project: Financing Options for Solar Installations on K-12 Schools,” was published on October 20, 2011.
The report was produced under the DOE’s SunShot initiative to support development of Solar Master Plans for three California public school districts: Oakland, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts. According to the Department of Energy’s website:
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75%, making it cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. The new study supports DOE’s SunShot Initiative goal of addressing critical barriers, such as the availability of financing, to accelerate the integration of solar energy technologies across the United States. Installing solar energy systems on public schools can help school districts save money on their utility bills, reduce carbon emissions, support job creation, and provide students with opportunities to learn about clean energy.
At a time when school districts are looking to save energy in order to save money, and perhaps teach students a lesson on renewable energy, solar installations for schools makes great sense:
The DOE report compares and contrasts the two primary options for financing solar: (1) direct ownership, whereby the school takes out a loan to purchase solar panels, and (2) solar power purchase agreements or solar leasing, under which a third party owns, operates and maintains the solar panels and sells solar electricity generated by the array to the school at a cost less than typical grid-based power. The third-party finance model also includes Energy Saving Performance Contracts, in which cost savings from energy efficiency improvements help to pay for the solar installation.
The analysis in the report is intended to help administrators select the best option for financing solar installations for schools.