Two reports by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) released February 3rd found that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and Durham Public Schools (DPS) can meet 100 percent of their electricity needs and save millions over the next 25 years by installing solar panels to power their schools. With solar-friendly updates to solar policies in the state, including the allowance of third party energy sales and changes to net metering policy, CMS and DPS could produce renewable electricity for 25 years and reduce their total electricity cost by 11 percent.
The reports, commissioned by the Repower Our Schools coalition, analyzed the rooftop and parking lot areas available for solar electricity production and determined that there is adequate area across its schools for each district to generate more electricity with solar than it uses in a year, especially when additional, expected energy efficiency savings are considered. The reports also examined multiple scenarios to identify financially attractive options for the districts. Under current policies, the districts could save the most money over the next 25 years by powering schools with groundmounted photovoltaic (PV) solar using a partnershipflip ownership model, which allows schools to obtain the system after seven years of joint ownership with thirdparty investors. Under this arrangement, the researchers estimate that energy generated by the solar system during its 25 year life will be nine percent less than purchasing the same amount of electricity from the local electric utility. When calculated in terms of the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for the next 25 years, the ground-mounted partnership-flip PV system provides the school with renewable electricity for about half a cent per kilowatt-hour less than purchasing the same electricity from the utility.
The reports recommend the schools districts continue to focus on energy efficiency improvements while preparing to add solar generation by doing additional internal economic analysis, investigating the districts’ options for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs), and piloting one or more large PV installations.
The Repower Our Schools coalition launched in January 2015 to support parents, teachers and students who want to see their schools go solar for the health, environmental and economic benefits. Additional information can be found at www.repowerourschools.com.