Solar Generates Learning Opportunities

This story is an excerpt from Generation180’s 2019 report on the state of solar in Virginia’s K-12 schools on Richmond Public Schools.

With a tight budget and aging school facilities, Richmond Public Schools hadn’t really considered going solar until the Community Foundation of Richmond announced its RVA Solar Fund. The fund awarded the district with a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to partner with Secure Futures Solar to install nearly 3 megawatts on 10 school district buildings. Generation180 was a supporting partner of RVA Solar Fund, which enabled Virginia’s largest school district solar installation to date. Through a power purchase agreement, the district will save more than $2 million in energy costs over the next 20 years and will not incur any upfront capital costs or ongoing maintenance costs.

The fund created opportunities to maximize the educational impact of the solar project to students throughout the district. The grant funded the hire of a full-time sustainability coordinator to engage staff and students in using solar technology. All 8th-grade science teachers attended a professional development workshop by the National Energy Education Development Project to try out hands-on lessons about energy principles and solar power that can be used in their classes.

“The big opportunity for us is that solar is a win, win, win—for our district’s budget, our students’ education, and our community’s transition to clean energy.”

-Liz Doerr, School Board Member, Richmond Public Schools

Real-time data generated by the solar installations enabled one high school class to participate in a collaborative research project with peers from Augusta County Public Schools, Secure Futures Solar, and the Science Museum of Virginia. The Throwing Solar Shade program has these young researchers using data from their schools’ roofs to investigate the urban heat island effect and how shading from solar panels affects energy demand in their school buildings.

The solar installations are also being used to educate the surrounding community about clean energy. In October 2019, two of Richmond’s new solar schools were featured in a national solar tour, allowing the school district to showcase its solar initiative to the public.

Published: 6/9/2023


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Want more about where this came from? Download our 2019 report "Powering a Brighter Future in VA".