Solar Power Movement Spreading on College Campuses

By December 3, 2015RESIDENTIAL, solar

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see the benefits of adopting solar, and many colleges and universities are making the switch. Many institutions, like UC Davis and the University of Georgia, have already decided that solar energy is the way to go. 

Smart Savings

Powering classrooms, dorms, labs, and the rest of a college campus isn’t cheap. And using solar power to augment your campus’s energy supply can result in big savings.

Energy costs tend to make up a big chunk of the budget of businesses and large institutions. Depending on the time of year and amount of panels installed, the switch to solar can potentially result in thousands of dollars in savings.

College campuses on the whole tend to be full of large, flat roofs, which provide another opportunity to reduce expenses. A recent study found that if the University of Southern California leased 500,000 square feet of roof space to solar power providers, it could earn $125,000 a year. Over the 20-year lifespan of a solar panel that comes out to $2.5 million.

For institutions that do long-term financial planning, solar offers another benefit. Traditionally, energy prices fluctuate year-to-year, making it difficult to plan for one of your biggest expenses. Going solar allows you lock into a low rate that will be in place for many years.

Sunny Prospects

Given that greenhouse gases are the leading cause of climate change, it’s a great idea for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint. Large institutions like colleges and universities use a lot of electricity, so their potential impact on climate change could be substantial

If saving money and the planet aren’t enough, though, colleges using solar energy can gain a leg up in recruiting students.. The College Hopes and Worries Survey, conducted by the Princeton Review in 2015, found that 60 percent of college applicants and their parents were weighing institutions’ commitment to environmental issues when considering where to apply.

On-campus solar systems also provide an opportunity for students to get some hands-on experience with alternative energy. The University of Georgia, for example, has started and completed several solar projects that not only provide campus power, but also are available for research into alternative fuels.

“The solar panels serve as a teaching tool not only for the campus in general, but for students in the College of Environment and Design who are learning to design the systems and cities of the future,” said Kevin Kirsche, Director of Sustainability at the University of Georgia,  “UGA is making significant strides toward researching, teaching and practicing renewable energy technologies that result in cleaner air, improved water resources and a positive return on investments.”

Saving for a Rainy Day

Some colleges and universities are still on the fence about the switch to solar. A top concern is the reliability of solar — can it really keep the lights on?

“USC is a very risk-averse institution. There are potential risks from solar that they want to avoid. For instance: What if solar intensity is lower than expected? What if the solar panels stop working optimally?” said Ethan Bialick, a member of the USC Environmental Core student group. “When I spoke to the energy manager last time, the economics were not the problem; the problem was the potential that something could go wrong unexpectedly.”

The good news is that solar technology is rapidly evolving. The industry standard warranty of solar panels is 25 years, but researchers found that 90 percent actually last 30 years or more. Solar storage is also becoming more effective, allowing you to save up power for a rainy day.

If you’d like to find out how installing solar panels on your roof can help you drive your electric bill down to zero, contact us today for a free quote.