CBS News reported that a school district in Arkansas installed 1500 solar panels to reduce energy costs. The school district partnered with the local utility company to provide sustainable energy at a more affordable rate. The school district will save approximately $600,000 annually. The school district wasn’t just saving money but was selling off the surplus solar energy to the grid for added value. Teachers and staff members benefited from the surplus in the form of a $15,000 total raise. This was made possible from the solar installation. The school capitalized on its solar access and affordability. This story is as much an upbeat, feel-good story about solar as it is a blueprint for other school districts. Florida could look to this school district as a guide for similar success. This week we will be reviewing some legislation in Florida currently being mulled over that could lead to similarly positive ramifications for solar proponents and Florida school districts.
The Proposed Legislation
Lawmakers in Florida are considering legislation that would make it easier for school districts to utilize solar energy. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that “Two bills, filed by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep. Omari Hardy, D-Lake Worth Beach, would allow school districts to negotiate “Power Purchase Agreements” with renewable energy providers. Under such an agreement, the energy provider covers the initial costs of installation and agrees to sell the customer the energy.” Developers such as utility companies can plan, design, finance, and install a solar system for a host at no/low initial cost, providing solar energy at a lower, fixed rate. Berman and Hardy have also proposed separate bills that would remove the cost of solar energy systems from the “cost per student station,” a controversial formula that caps how much school districts can spend when building a new school. By exempting the cost of solar installations, school districts wouldn’t have to lower the schools’ quality to adjust for the spending limitations. All of the proposed bills would be a step in the right direction for solar energy and a more sustainable future.
What To Expect
Ryan McKinnon of the Herald-Tribune wrote:
“advocates for the Power Purchase Agreement legislation say that 79% of schools that use solar energy do so through such agreements because it eliminates the startup costs. However, the Democratic-led initiative has not advanced. It is going up against the powerful energy lobby, and lawmakers are leery of changing how utilities are regulated, especially in light of the Texas ice storm that crippled the power grid there.”
Florida lawmakers may leave the bill dead in its tracks. We had covered in a previous blog how the Texas grid failed, and how renewable energy could help prevent the next disastrous blackout. Yet, it just goes to show how powerful the energy lobby is and how eager they are to prohibit solar expansion. Florida lawmakers may claim that the bill isn’t necessary. They may discount the fact that renewable energy accounts for more energy production than coal. Some lawmakers may look to Texas in an ignorant, misled, and erroneous attempt to undermine solar power and other renewable energy sources. Either way, the outlook for this legislation doesn’t look well. Solar proponents in Sarasota should reach out to their local and state officials to rally support for these bills that help solar energy.
Passing the above bills will be a significant win for solar energy. If not, solar advocates will still persevere. Even if these bills fail to become policy, people can always take advantage of all that solar has to offer. More bills will be proposed in the future, and with each new day, renewable energy gains traction and support. The responsibility falls on us as individuals to do our part. It has become increasingly apparent how vital small-scale solar installations are in providing sustainable, cost-efficient energy. If you live in the Sarasota area and are interested in learning more about solar, check out our blog here. If you want to receive a free quote from Region Solar, click here.