By Doug Payne, for Solar Industry Magazine
With one of the industry’s largest events, Solar Power International, just around the corner and the school season officially upon us, what better time to address integrating solar into the classroom?
As a child, if someone told you that the same sun that lights up our planet would one day power your home, you probably would have thought he was crazy. But now, students of all ages – from kindergarten to college – are experiencing solar firsthand.
Across the country, K-12 schools, universities and colleges are demanding solar energy. In fact, according to The Solar Foundation’s 2014 report entitled “Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools,” solar installations on U.S. K-12 schools experienced a compound annual growth rate of 110 percent. For post-secondary education in particular, U.S. colleges and universities have a higher percentage of LEED-certified green space than any other sector, with an average of one LEED-certified building for every four colleges.
We know that solar is soaring, and here’s why:
Valuing hands-on learning
At the K-12 level, the latest results of the Program for International Student Assessment state that students in the U.S. performed below average in math and only close to the average in science. In particular, students demonstrated weaknesses translating real-world situations into mathematical terms.
With the introduction of solar technology, teachers envision numerous educational opportunities that can be integrated into a school’s math, science, technology and engineering-related programs to improve test scores through hands-on learning that inspires classroom discussion.
Helping students succeed
University students want access to renewable energy programs that will help clear the path to careers in the rapidly growing clean economy. According to The Solar Foundation’s 2013 National Solar Job Consensus, the U.S. solar industry currently employs over 142,000 Americans – a 20 percent jump from 2012.
With this growth, more professors and students from numerous areas of study, including urban planning, conservation, clean energy and architecture, are looking for solar systems that facilitate research and project development opportunities across curriculums.
As a society, we’re more aware than ever of the difference we can make purchasing smart, sustainable products and the role we can play shifting to cleaner, greener solutions. As we strive to make our own decisions with environmental responsibility in mind, we expect our communities and the establishments we support to do the same.
Integrating solar into their institutions allows education professionals to position their school as a sustainability-focused leader, essential for attracting new students.
Reducing energy costs, powering priorities
For administrators facing budget constraints and the high cost of energy constantly looming overhead, solar is a way to reduce energy costs and ensure a stable energy budget. This allows them to direct savings to important educational needs, such as modern classroom materials, teachers’ salaries and enhanced facilities.
Paving the path forward
Whether it’s to improve test scores, increase job opportunities, reduce energy bills or enable modernization of the classroom, solar is growing in popularity among educational institutions. More educators and classroom technology experts are reaping the benefits of holistic solar solutions that address core areas of their communities’ concerns and light up every classroom, auditorium and young mind they reach.
Doug Payne is senior sales/business development manager for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co.