Solar energy crowdfunding effort ongoing
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) campaign to bring solar power to more of America’s schools is nearly half way to its crowdfunding target and three cities – Los Angles, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. – have attracted the most online support as possible pilot locations.
In a first-of-its kind melding of education, energy and environmentalism, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched on Oct. 21, 2013 a crowdfunding campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-schools-powering-classrooms-empowering-communities supporting a new initiative to help schools advance solar development projects that can provide clean, renewable energy.
The crowdfunding campaign – a first for NRDC – is now roughly halfway to its goal of raising $54,000 through the Indiegogo online platform to help at least three to-be-determined schools move forward with solar projects. A built-in component of the campaign is to allow contributors the ability to vote on the city of their choice for the pilot projects. Charlotte, Philly and LA are leading that voting right now.
As part of the campaign, NRDC also is developing an online platform that local schools can use to navigate the sometimes confusing pathway to obtain solar power. The site will detail state and local rules regarding solar power installations across America, and connect schools and communities with organizations and experts that can support them each step of the way.
“Our ultimate goal is help every school that wants solar power to get it,” said NRDC renewable energy policy director Nathanael Greene.
“Once we reach our fundraising goal for Solar Schools, we’ll select the top three vote-getting schools, not just to utilize NRDC’s new online organizing/expertise platform, but also to receive in-person training from our experts, and ongoing support and mentoring during the organizing process,” he said.
The benefits to local schools and students can be substantial. In California, for instance, the Firebaugh-Las Deltas United School District was able to reinstate a music program for 2,300 students after installing solar on its schools, thanks to an estimated $900,000 in energy cost savings. Students also get a first-hand look at how solar energy works, and a real life lesson on why science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is important.
“Numerous organizations and programs – many through utilities – are putting solar panels on schools,” said Jay Orfield, environmental innovation fellow in NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation.
“What’s different about our program is that it aims to make solar an option for any school, anywhere, by beginning with local school administrators, parents, teachers, students and communities and giving them the tools to they need to make solar power a reality,” he said.
NRDC is partnering with several other organizations on the campaign, including The Solar Foundation, Community Power Network, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (Solar 4R Schools) and Three Birds Foundation.
For a straight-from-students video about NRDC’s “Solar Schools: Power Classrooms, Empowering Communities” campaign – and to contribute – go here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-schools-powering-classrooms-empowering-communities
For Nathanael Greene’s blog detailing the campaign, see: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ngreene/nrdc_launches_solar_schools.html
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.