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Question Your World: Are Richmond schools going solar? 

Schools are some of the most important aspects of our society. Improving schools is often a subject of conversation when making future plans for a region. A lot of school systems throughout the nation operate on very tight budgets so they are turning to renewable energy to help lower some bills. The growing trend of solar schools across the nation is now making its way to central Virginia. Are Richmond schools going solar? 

Improving Richmond’s schools is a pretty big topic. Ultimately the big question is, how do we improve the schools with the limited resources available? Enter Secure Futures LLC, a private solar energy company from Staunton that is making big news right here in Richmond. Even with federal and state tax incentives, installing and operating solar infrastructure is a pricey investment, especially for our region’s budget-restricted public schools. Which is why the recent news about a partnership between Secure Futures and ten Richmond public schools has been making headlines, all thanks to a Power Purchase Agreement

A Power Purchase Agreement is basically a long term contract between the schools and Secure Futures. The solar energy company outfits the schools with solar infrastructure and does the upkeep and maintenance at zero upfront cost, and the schools pay them for the power generated from the solar cells. All this comes at a cheaper energy cost than what’s currently offered by the traditional energy provider. 

After the solar energy construction is completed, these schools will have the capacity to power 24% of their energy needs from solar. The added bonus is that it takes advantage of the schools’ existing roof space, so no extra land clearing is needed. In 20 years, Richmond Public Schools is projected to save $2 million dollars on energy costs from these arrays. This saved money gives local planners and school administrators some extra capital to potentially improve schools, pay higher wages and invest in other options for the school system. 

Huguenot HIgh School solar array

Installation is already underway as Richmond joins the growing solar schools trend across the nation. The best part though is that the impacts will cascade up as elementary and middle school students learn about and experience how solar energy works in a real life application. After all, knowledge is power and bonus points when it’s renewable! 

Credit: All images via Richmond Public Schools

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