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5,500 U.S. Schools Use Solar Power, And That's Growing As Costs Fall, Study Shows


In a field behind an elementary school in rural Middlesex County, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay, an ambitious plan has been taking shape: Schools Superintendent Peter Gretz and other local administrators are preparing to power their school district with solar energy.

By next August, Virginia-based solar developer Sun Tribe Solar expects to have an array of solar panels in place in that field that can generate enough electricity to power the county's elementary school and middle school—at a price well below their current electricity costs—while offering students, teachers and the community a way to learn about clean energy.

"We felt it was important work for our kids, and we wanted them to see the community leading in a way that was responsible and sustainable, as well as fiscally responsible and efficient," Gretz said.

The number of schools powered by solar is growing quickly. About 5 percent of all K-12 U.S. schools are now powered by the sun, and their solar capacity has almost doubled in the last three years, according to a new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180, a clean energy nonprofit.

The nearly 5,500 schools using solar power today have a total of