Solar Power Helps California Schools Save Money, Cut Pollution

Media Releases

Media Contacts

New report outlines economic, environmental & educational benefits of solar at public K-12 schools

Environment California Research & Policy Center


Los Angeles, CA – Environment California Research & Policy Center released a new report today detailing how nearly 200 California K-12 public schools have invested in solar power and are saving money and cutting air pollution as a result.  The report is a first-of-its-kind collection of success stories illustrating the environmental, economic and educational benefits of public K-12 schools going solar. Environment California Research & Policy Center was joined by Los Angeles school officials and clean energy advocates in releasing the report.

The new report, Making the Grade with Clean Energy: Case Studies of California Solar Schools, profiles 18 school districts statewide and demonstrates how solar power is helping to reduce air pollution while saving schools money on energy bills, creating local jobs, and educating and exciting students about renewable energy.

“California school districts are adding a fourth “r” to the building blocks of education: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and renewables,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center and author of the report. “Schools all across California are saving significant dollars by going solar, and helping reduce air pollution.

According to school and solar advocates alike, California schools have already begun and should continue laying the groundwork for the next great energy transition.

“The movement toward greener schools will help create jobs, protect our environment, save money and create teachable moments for students all at the same time,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, whose Schools of the Future initiative highlights ways to retool California’s school construction process to foster 21st century learning—recommendations that include making the most of schools’ solar power potential.

“The time is right for renewable power on school campuses.  During these tough fiscal times, schools are showing more and more interest in the significant cost savings that can be passed along to students, teachers and communities along with the positive environmental benefits that have always been part of the equation,” said Anna Ferrera, executive director of the School Energy Coalition (SEC), an organization that advocates for funding for school district energy projects. “SEC applauds this important research by Environment California Research & Policy Center, which helps make the case that school energy projects are an important infrastructure that merit recognition and state investment.”

“In choosing to go solar, school districts throughout California are reducing their energy costs,” said Steve Zuretti, Manager of California for the Solar Energy Industries Association.  “This has a direct impact on their bottom line and long-term success.”

The report recommends that California make it possible for more school districts to participate in the state’s solar transformation, and suggests key steps for how California leaders can ensure these achievements. Recommended steps include ensuring that California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative (SB 1) reaches its goals of driving a market for 3,000 megawatts of rooftop solar by 2016, and then moving beyond that goal to reach 12,000 MW of local clean power across the state by 2020, as envisioned by Governor Brown. To achieve these goals, California must expand the state’s successful net metering program and continuing to offer strong financing programs and policies so that all California schools can go solar.

The release was hosted by the Los Angeles Unified School District, at the new South Region High School #9 in the City of South Gate, which boasts a 244 kilowatt solar carport system. This system is one of 27 solar projects already completed by the District, and 60 additional projects are planned. When the District’s solar plans are completed, it is predicted that LAUSD will produce over 42 megawatts of clean energy and save the District up to $800,000 each month.

 “We are happy to be a part of today’s event and a school district leading the way in solar energy across the state,” LAUSD Interim Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter said.  “The District remains committed to energy conservation and an increased use of renewable energy at this school and Districtwide.”