PennEnvironment study: Large solar potential for Philadelphia’s public schools

Report shows benefits of job creation, reduced air pollution, and financial savings for school district

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center

[Philadelphia] – Today, PennEnvironment was joined by Councilman Derek Green to release Solar Schools for Philadelphia: Clean air, green jobs, and financial savings, a report that analyzes the economic, public health, job creation and environmental benefits of installing solar on the rooftops of Philadelphia public schools. PennEnvironment and Councilman Green were also joined by Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Councilman Bobby Henon, Iggy Fletcher from IBEW Local 98, Hillary Linardopoulos from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and other members of City Council. 

 The report shows that by installing solar panels on its more than 100 acres of usable rooftop space, the Philadelphia School District could cover 37% of its annual electricity needs with solar.  In addition, the new study showed that these installations would save taxpayers an estimated $13 million on utility bills for school buildings, create 750 full-time, one-year clean energy jobs in Philadelphia, and offset 62,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

 “PennEnvironment’s research shows that going solar is a triple win for Philadelphia’s public schools,” said PennEnvironment’s Zoe Cina-Sklar. “It will create jobs, reduce air pollution, and save the school district millions of dollars.”

“We know too well that the School District has structural budgetary problems that can only be truly resolved in Harrisburg, but we need to come together to maximize available resources, which includes using school buildings and parking lots to limit the cost of energy,” said Councilman Derek Green.

PennEnvironment’s report highlights the benefits of solar energy for Philadelphia public schools including: 

  • Solar schools will reduce global warming pollution and smog—solar schools will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 62,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 13,700 cars off the road, and offset the emission of 127 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide.
  • Solar schools will reduce pollution that triggers asthma in our kids solar schools will cut the release of asthma-linked sulfur dioxide by 127 tons
  •  Solar schools will create jobs—solarizing Philadelphia schools will provide 750 full-time, one-year local jobs.
  • Solar schools will save taxpayer money— solar schools will save the school district $13 million over the course of arrays’ 30-year lifetime
  • Solar panels on schools present a great learning opportunity for students, particularly in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.

With the cost of solar coming down, solar power is emerging as a mainstream energy solution with significant benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.  

“PennEnvironment’s solar energy initiative allows for an innovative means for addressing both the environmental and educational needs of our communities. While certainly not a silver bullet, the program provides real, cost-effective and energy saving solar panels while at the same time investing real dollars into our schools,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordon. “I am pleased to join PennEnvironment’s initiative, and look forward to working with their team on how the PFT can help support and facilitate the process”

PennEnvironment calls on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, and the School District of Philadelphia to work together to:

  • Commit to and create a program to put solar panels on public schools across Philadelphia.
  • Require that any extensive school renovations include plans to study the cost effectiveness of solar panels, and require that any new school buildings use solar panels.
  • Strengthen Pennsylvania’s statewide commitment to solar energy, including by strengthening the renewable electricity standard’s solar energy requirement, providing additional tax incentives and low-interest loans, and requiring that all solar alternative energy credits be generated in-state.
  • Work with the federal government to ensure that federal incentives such as tax credits are continued, and that federal programs continue to provide support for cities expanding solar.

“This report provides a syllabus for the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia to follow in making solar schools a reality,” added Cina-Sklar. “By supporting solar schools for Philadelphia, our elected officials will help ensure a healthier and safer planet for our kids—now and in future generations.”