Eugenia's Corner: Solar Panels on Parking Lots?

Hey guys,

I have a confession to make. When I travel to local high schools for sports tournaments, I’m jealous whenever I pull into a cool parking spot under chic solar panels. This is a luxury that we don’t have at Los Gatos High School (LGHS). Not only would some extra shade and protection against bird droppings be greatly appreciated (and save me money from frequent carwashes), I believe that exposing young people to clean energy sources is an important step towards “green thinking.” But while the typical high school student only thinks of preserving his or her car’s aesthetic appeal, school administrators are thinking about the energy generated and money saved in energy bills.

Students and staff at John Jay High School (JJHS) in New York even have access to real-time monitoring of solar consumption/generation. Imagine stopping by a screen that tells you how much energy your school is generating at that exact moment on your way to English class. Seriously, how cool is that? With just 216 solar panels, JJHS reduces 43.8 tons of CO2 yearly! To add perspective, this is the equivalent of consuming 4,459 gallons of gasoline.

In fact, more than 500 K-12 schools in 43 states have already installed solar panels. Of course, living in a hub of leading high-tech innovations and development, us Silicon Valley folks are not behind. Locally, Milpitas schools use parking lot solar panels that fulfill 75% of the district’s annual electricity needs during the school year and 100% of its summer needs. Over its 25-year lifetime, the district is looking at an estimated $12 million in electric bill savings.

As the costs associated with solar power continue to decrease, we see an increasing number of homes, institutions, and companies looking to go solar. Actually, the two most popular ways for schools to finance solar panels is either through direct ownership (pretty self-explanatory) or the Bake Sale Model. The latter uses a combination of grants and fundraising to cover the entire cost, which begs the question: What’s the delay LGHS? Our school motto is “Commitment to Excellence.” Let’s be excellent not only in the classrooms and on the fields, but within our community as well! I would love to see a commitment to creating a more sustainable world by reducing our carbon footprint and turning to clean energy sources–one high school at a time!

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Your passionate and jealous LG Wildcat,