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Top 10 reasons why schools are installing solar panels

With the Paris talks now over and millions of demonstrators globally relieved at having succeeded in persuading world leaders to commit to keeping global warming below 2 degrees, you might think that global warming has been solved and we can relax. Unfortunately closer inspection of the agreement reveals that no country has agreed to a binding target, but simply to present binding targets within 5 years and somehow become carbon free by 2050. So the hard work remains and it will be down to the efforts of many individuals to ensure we can show the UK and the world how to start decarbonising modern society.

Schools can play a key role in this huge challenge. Worldwide thousands of schools have started to install solar panels, but less than 1% of UK schools have so far done so. The reasons schools have installed solar are many and for most the decision was a no brainer, but for schools who have not yet taken this step into the future, here are the top 10 reasons why schools have gone solar:

  1. Educating the next generation. Inspiring and educating the next generation on the challenges and opportunities of living with renewable sources of energy is critical. Once they see what is possible with solar, they will act as ambassadors and take the lessons home and out into the community with them. They will need to live in a 100% carbon neutral world and the sooner we prepare them, the better. How better than to have your own solar panels at the school, where students can see the impact of the sun and think about how to deal with its intermittency every day.
  2. Cleaning up the world. Each school can make a significant difference in starting the long path to becoming carbon neutral and keeping global warming under control. If every school in the UK installed 30kW of solar, we would reduce the UK’s footprint by 400,000 tonnes, or about the same as getting rid of 80,000 petrol cars. Now that’s a big reason!
  3. Saving the world need not cost the earth. It can often be done for FREE! It’s been very well publicised that the UK government cuts to subsidies will have a devastating effect on future solar deployments. It is clear that generous instant savings will be a thing of the past, but the good news is, that solar is still feasible on many schools. Why? Schools are considered safe counterparties by investors who are content to take a lower risk return whilst doing good, vs investing on the roof of a business that may well not be there in 10 years’ time. So now, more than ever, every school that can install solar, should do so.
  4. Saves the school money. Using solar power can in some cases immediately start saving schools money on their electricity bills. Even if the price you pay for green clean electricity from the panels is initially slightly higher than the price paid for your usual dirty variety, over time as electricity prices rise faster than the price you pay for clean, green electricity (which is locked to RPI), most schools will still save money in the long term. Especially when considering that the panels can last for 30-40 years and the funding agreement lasts 20. I.e. after 20 years the school gets nearly free electricity for another decade or two.
  5. Leaving a legacy. The panels on the school will continue to operate for decades, a lasting legacy that will stand as a monument to those involved in taking the initiative to make a difference. Many generations of students will see and benefit from the fruits of your labour.
  6. Reduce the UK’s dependence on imported fuels. By generating electricity from the sun rather than imported gas or coal from often hostile countries, means the UK will not have to compromise its values to keep foreign leaders happy or worse, try and control them by force. (Russia, Iraq, Syria etc.)
  7. Democratising energy generation. By schools generating more energy themselves, they are contributing to weakening the grip of the big 6 energy suppliers in the UK and taking more control over their energy costs.
  8. Better than Nuclear. Cheaper and safer too! The UK needs to cut subsidies to renewables to stay within budget, yet the UK needs more power generation to keep the lights on as old coal fired plants are mothballed. If we don’t install more renewables, the government may go ahead and install more nuclear instead as they see it as the only alternative low carbon solution. Who wants a nuclear plant in their back garden?
  9. It’s easier than you think. You can do as little or as much as you like. There are some great organisations supporting schools looking to have solar panels; from charities to installers, to funders, developers and energy co-operatives all working to make it easier for schools to go solar. Over 1000 schools in the UK have had solar installed and the vast majority are delighted. Partner with an organisation with experience in dealing with schools and who focus on a long term relationship rather than a quick sale and you should be fine.
  10. Peace of mind. Solar is relatively simple to install and maintain. A good solar partner will take care of your system, from insurance to daily monitoring, from billing and paperwork to maintenance and covering the cost of repairs when needed during the 20 year lifetime. They will also help your school use as much of the electricity from it as possible and provide learning opportunities for students along the way. So the school can do good, without having to worry about it.