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A “Solarbration” Across the State

In Illinois, one community foundation is helping offer solar panels and teacher trainings to schools across the state.

Ninety-six percent of the solar schools in Illinois have received grant funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to install 1 kW solar systems on site. This statewide effort to spread solar education has propelled Illinois into third place for number of schools with solar installations in the U.S., trailing behind only California and New Jersey. Through this program, the foundation has made solar energy accessible to hundreds of communities and more than 250,000 students.

The goal of the program is to educate young people who will make better energy choices in the future. These compact solar systems are designed to be educational tools to teach students about clean energy. Therefore, each school that receives a grant from the foundation must make the solar panels visible to the students, commit to utilizing the system to teach about solar, and hold a public “Solarbration” that is open for the surrounding community to attend. Each school receives free teacher training provided by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project on how to integrate solar into the classroom. The foundation also assists schools with site assessments, vendor selection, installation and system maintenance over the years. This support gives school leaders familiarity with the solar development process, if they decide to move forward with a larger power-generating solar energy system.

Illinois Washington MS

Nearly 90% of solar energy systems (under 15 kW) have been funded by grants or donations. There are a handful of grant opportunities currently available for schools to get started with a small solar array:

  • ILLINOIS CLEAN ENERGY COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: The K-12 Solar Schools program offers grants to support the installation of 1 kW photovoltaic (PV) systems throughout Illinois. Grantees receive assistance to coordinate system installation as well as curricular support.
  • NC GREENPOWER: The Solar+Schools grants provide 3-5 kW solar educational projects at schools, complete with a weather station, data monitoring, curriculum from NEED.org and training for teachers. Any North Carolina K-12 school may apply.
  • WISCONSIN COUILLARD SOLAR FOUNDATION: In partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Solar on Schools aims to subsidize solar installations on Wisconsin’s public schools. For solar systems <100 kW, a school will be granted up to 50% of the panels required for the solar project. For systems 100 kW+, a school will be granted 50 kW of panels.
  • DOMINION SOLAR FOR STUDENTS: Dominion Energy’s Solar for Students program provides participating public schools a 1.2 kW solar system, educational materials and training for educators.

Last Updated: 5/25/2023


Generation180 has toolkits, guides, reports, and more to help your school go solar. Visit SolarForAllSchools.org for even more resources.

Want more about where this came from? Download our Brighter Future 2020 Report.