• Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action CYACA

The Key to Getting Solar in Public Schools? PPA's

Schools across the country are turning to solar energy to power their lights. Thirty years ago only a couple of schools with the know-how would be able to install them, often with just one or two panels. Now schools are installing panels across their roofs and powering enough energy for 50% or more of the school's energy. Much of this is being done with PPA's.

PPA's or Power Purchase Agreements offers schools the ability to lease solar systems at no money down and start saving immediately. With educational funding often unclear, leasing systems offer less risk than traditional purchasing models. and here's how it works:

1. Solar Contractors partner with schools and do a survey of the roof, building, and energy. They analyze how strong the roof is, energy output/use, and how much space is available for panels.

2.Then, contractors take into account how much federal and stateswide incentives there are for solar. This could include things like net metering, feed-in-tarrifts, tax incentives, etc

3. If the deal makes sense, contractors will meet with schools to hash out details. This is the perfect opportunity for schools to figure out how much they will be compensated for the energy and what the new bill will be, etc. For example , will the rate they pay go up(escalator) or tied to the energy market price in the state? How long is the contract?

4. Once everything is set the school pays two lower bills in aggregate: one to their utility and one to the developer. Schools immediately begin to see the savings in solar without making the large upfront investment that would come with purchasing a system.

Although the roof is only leased and panels are never owned, other financing options are difficult in these cases. This way schools pay less money down, have technical support, and get opportunities to teach students about renewable energy! Many schools get students involved in walkthroughs of the building, analyzing energy use, and looking at the impact of the panels on the school in science classes.

This financing approach becomes even more attractive as states like Illinois begin to make policies that encourage this. We are beginnning to see PPA's extended to investments across the impact landscape like retrofitting buildings in Phladelphia, among others. It's clear they have a positive impact on buildings going green.

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