The energy costs for powering public school campuses is the second-highest cost for school districts in Minnesota, after human resources. The use of on-site solar to reduce energy costs would save district budgets—and potentially local property taxpayers—hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but a few significant barriers prevent more widespread adoption of solar on schools, including upfront cost and the challenge of monetizing the Investment Tax Credit.
MnSEIA has made a legislative push this biennium for a grant program for Solar on Schools. The Renewable Development Account (RDA) omnibus bill in the House, HF1842, appropriates $16 million from the RDA for grants to school districts to build on-site solar. At least half of the grant disbursements must be in low-income districts, which are defined here by having at least half of the students enrolled in free or reduced-lunch programs.
The school receiving the grant must also demonstrate to the Department of Commerce, which will administer the program, that the solar installation will be used as part of the educational curriculum. This requirement will provide an excellent STEM learning opportunity, invigorate student interest in solar, and demonstrate to parents and the community the power of solar energy.
As the 2020 legislative session has been shaped by responses to COVID-19 and the corresponding economic fallout, this issue has risen in priority for MnSEIA. Because this bill uses RDA money, and not General Funds, to fund solar development, it can stimulate Minnesota’s economy without diverting resources from other needs.
Interested in learning more about solar on schools in Minnesota or powering a school near you? The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS) website has a helpful step by step guide for bringing solar to your school district along with fact sheets, interactive tools and maps, and tons of resources and contact information.