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5 Schools Leading the Clean Energy Revolution in 2020

image credit: Unsplash

Few issues seem as urgent across all industries today as environmental sustainability. As the threat of climate change becomes more evident, people are pushing for a green revolution. Clean energy is pivotal to this matter, and schools are leading the charge.

Energy use is by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Given how much energy industrial processes use, many look to corporations for leadership in the clean electricity movement. While many companies are pursuing green energy, the education system seems to be at the forefront.

Here are five schools across the country setting a strong example for clean energy initiatives.

1. Northampton Community College

Northampton Community College (NCC) in Monroe, Penn., recently achieved a goal few institutions and organizations can claim. The school supplies 100% of its electricity with renewable energy through wind and solar power. On-site solar and wind generation accounts for much of the college’s energy, while a nearby wind farm supplies the rest.

NCC was the only college to earn a Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA last fall. All other recipients of the honor were large corporations like Google and Bank of America. NCC is also continuing its clean energy efforts through researching new environmental initiatives for various industries.

2. University of Minnesota, Morris

While NCC is a small community college, clean energy transformations are happening at larger state schools, too. According to Environment America, the University of Minnesota (UMN), Morris, leads the nation in on-campus renewable energy generation. UMN produces roughly 60% of its electricity through wind turbines and solar panels.

The power from those renewable sources adds up to 10 million BTUs of clean energy per full-time students. That’s more than 2 million BTUs higher than the second-place school, the University of Missouri. With additional solar and wind installations, UMN could transition to 100% clean energy before long.

3. Palmyra Area Middle School

While higher education institutions tend to have larger budgets, they’re not the only schools pursuing green energy. Palmyra Area Middle School in Palmyra, Penn., recently designed a clean energy project. Using energy resource data from NASA, the middle school developed a green heating and cooling system.

Cooling alone accounts for 11% of commercial energy consumption and 16% of residential usage. By creating an eco-friendly way to heat and cool the school, Palmyra Middle sets an example for local businesses and residents. 

4. Santa Barbara Unified School District

Solar microgrids could be crucial in the transition to renewable energy, and some schools are leading the way. The Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) in California unanimously voted to pursue solar microgrids in September. The microgrids the district builds will supply clean backup energy to the schools.

Santa Barbara is a natural disaster-prone area, making power outages an all-too-frequent occurrence. The SBUSD’s new solar microgrids would give it a source of electricity when the main grids fail. On top of protecting students and providing for the community, this effort brings awareness to solar’s benefits in the region.

5. Hopkinton High School

Some schools’ clean energy efforts aren’t significant for their scale, but for how they start. Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, N.H., recently began a renewable energy initiative thanks to its students. Two students drafted a petition for clean power transformation and received 170 signatures within a week.

After catching the attention of environmental organization Clean Parents, the school is now discussing energy transformation options. This grassroots movement shows how even high school students can make a difference. 

Schools Are Setting an Example for Businesses

The education system should be a catalyst for change, and it’s looking like that’s the case. These five schools are only a small sampling of the educational institutions pursuing clean energy right now. As these efforts continue, more will join in, and schools will show businesses that green energy is possible.

Discussions

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 10, 2020

The implementation of positive energy projects also serves as a natural educational opportunity as well, whether teaching elementary school children about electric transport via EV buses or college-level energy courses being taught around the energy efficiency and solar PV measures installed on campus. Would love to see this type of energy education and energy literacy become more a core competency of all students!

Shannon Flynn's picture
Shannon Flynn on Nov 24, 2020

Hi Matt! Definitely agree with you there. Hopefully it will become a point of interest similar to how school gardens can foster student nutrition and encourage health and wellness education. Thank you for reading :)

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Nov 13, 2020

Thanks for the post, Shannon. Any idea how Northhampton and the Morris campus funded their switch to renewables? Did students see their tuition rates go up because of these projects? 

Shannon Flynn's picture
Shannon Flynn on Nov 24, 2020

Hi Henry! I unfortunately couldn't find anything about how their project was funded,  although a popular way that universities fund clean energy initiatives are through investors. RenewableEnergyWorld has reported that "private investors are able to harvest tax credits that are unavailable to non-taxable institutions, and their investments are repaid by selling clean energy back to the campus over time." I hope this helps! Thanks for reading!

Shannon Flynn's picture

Thank Shannon for the Post!

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