A $500 million dollar energy efficiency grant approved by the Biden administration will ensure public schools are “up to par” for the carbon-neutral future. The intention is to add solar, insulation, and other upgrades to the public facilities to offset energy usage moving forward. These changes are intended to move our nation closer to that “net-zero by 2050” goal.
We have over 84,000 public schools across the country, with approximately 100,000 buildings. These units house our greatest asset, our children. Of course, they should be a priority. Combine the assets within, with the massive square footage of the properties, and you have ground zero for energy efficiency progress. As a country, we can facilitate the greatest progress by starting with our public school system. It just makes sense.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to ensure carbon neutrality in our public school buildings is energy expense. We spend over $8 billion a year in energy costs for schools across the country. Cutting those expenditures via facilities upgrades will also reduce our carbon footprint.
A senior administration official commented to reporters following the grant announcement, “Energy efficiency improvements to HVAC systems, lighting, insulation, and other energy upgrades can unlock significant savings to go towards student learning and success.” If we can apply those savings to future learning, then we are increasing our children’s overall success and well-being. In other words, funding for improved technology and resources can only enable our future generations to progress; both environmentally and professionally. Furthermore, by educating our youth on energy efficiency, we ensure a zero-carbon future.
There are currently 7,332 schools with solar installations. However, not all of those are public schools. Arizona, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the leaders in implementing solar power within their school systems; public, as well as private.
Approximately 79% of the solar panels installed on schools were financed by a third party – not the school system itself. In some cases, the property was leased to a solar provider who in turn provides solar power to the school for a discounted rate. This is more cost-effective in comparison to buying electricity. However, if these projects can be grant-funded moving forward, then the additional power created could feasibly be sold to obtain additional school funds.
Ultimately, solar-powered school districts save exponentially on energy costs long-term. The Tucson Unified School district in Arizona anticipates saving $34 million in energy costs over the next 20 years. The Batesville School District in Arkansas used its energy savings from solar power to increase teachers’ salaries by up to $9.000 annually. Applying school district funds to improve teachers’ salaries, energy efficiency, and the quality of education itself, will surely add to the positive impact we can have both nationally and globally.
The air and heat that seeps through poorly insulated doors and windows can also impact a student’s ability to learn. Many schools were built decades ago before double pane windows were the standard. Over time, doors thrown open by rambunctious children have lost their sure fitting. Funds to replace such sub-surfaces are rare. This is another area in which these grant funds will be immensely beneficial for public schools.
Additionally, there is an issue of diesel fumes seeping into schools. It can be toxic for children and detrimental to their overall health. Headaches and congestion make studying more difficult. Until funds can be found for re-hauling fleets of diesel buses to electric, we need to do what we can to best insulate our schools.
3 in 1 window film
A multi-purpose energy-efficient option that would be greatly beneficial to public schools is solar window film. Unlike standard windows, it provides UV protection, reduces glare, and can keep the glass from shattering when broken. Furthermore, some window film provides additional insulation to the existing glass surface to prevent heating or cooling loss.
Many of us remember sitting by a window in school and being too hot to concentrate. Now that many students are using computers and other electronic devices, they have to battle the glare on their screens to focus. Window film can reduce, if not eliminate these circumstances, providing a more conducive environment for learning.
Window film application is more cost-effective, as well as less disruptive to services. For schools that may not be allotted enough funds to implement solar power, this option can certainly help move the buildings closer to energy efficiency. More importantly, it can have a greater impact on the day-to-day success of the students.
A carbon-neutral world
If we want to meet this ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, we have to be aggressive, particularly in government facilities. Public buildings are an ideal place to start. Our schools are a smarter choice still.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if spending money now could save us trillions in the long run? Maybe we’ll ask ourselves, “why didn’t we do this sooner?” But the answer is simple. We do better when we know better. And now it seems we have connected the dots for a carbon-neutral reality.
If you have questions regarding grants that support energy efficiency, we have a resource that may be of help to you. NGS provides grant assistance services to help business owners select applicable grants for building security upgrades. There’s no better time than the present to get started!