The Guide to Solar for Schools: Save Money, Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, and Teach Sustainability

Blog | February 20th, 2023

A solar PV system is a great way to reduce a school’s energy costs. Schools are ideally suited for solar power, as the times when they are generally operating are the same times when solar systems are producing energy. They also usually have large, unobstructed roof spaces and high energy demands that make a great match for a commercial solar system.

Find out everything your school needs to know about why solar can work for youl, and how you can ensure you get the most out of your commercial solar system.

What are the benefits?

Due to the hours of operation for schools and solar energy generation aligning, solar is a no-brainer for many educational institutions.  There are several financial and environmental benefits of installing a commercial solar system, including:

Reduced energy costs: By supplying your schools’ energy needs with solar and reducing the amount of electricity drawn from the grid, solar can significantly reduce your school’s electricity costs.

Short payback periods: In many cases, the savings generated can cover the cost of the investment in as little as a few years. After this, the savings generated by the system can be pocketed and redistributed into other areas of the school.

Reduced carbon footprint: By reducing the amount of grid-supplied energy consumed and opting for a renewable power source such as solar energy, schools can greatly reduce their carbon footprint.

Improve sustainable brand image: As we become more environmentally conscious, parents are more inclined to enrol their children in schools that adopt a sustainable approach to their operations. In turn, this can lead to higher enrolments for your school.

Act as a teaching tool: Acting as a hands-on learning tool, solar can teach students new skills in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Choosing a solar company

With so many solar companies out there, it can be difficult to determine which provider is going to be the best option for your school. When choosing a solar company, you want to ensure you are selecting one that will be around for the long-term and is capable of providing the knowledge and support your school needs.

Experience: Experience is a great indicator as it can tell you a lot about the business’ capabilities. You can determine their level of experience by looking into the solar company’s commercial track record, and years in operation. If the company has been selected to provide solar to some high-profile clients, it indicates they may have passed a stringent selection and background checking process.

Clean Energy Council Member and Approved Installers: Ensure they are a Clean Energy Council Member and only use Clean Energy Council Approved installers.

Commitment to Quality and Safety: Do they have quality and safety management plans? These are crucial in determining whether the solar company prioritises quality and safety. A poorly-installed system and low-quality components can impact the performance of your system, as well as creating a safety hazard.

After sales-support: After-sales support is just as important as the initial sales process and installation. Choosing an experienced company that offers ongoing in-house support is a good indication they have the knowledge and experience to help clients if they experience an issue. You should also look for companies that provide an adequate installation warranty in addition to the product warranties.

Timing of the installation: Installing a commercial solar system at a school may be disruptive. For this reason, choosing a solar company that understands this concern and suggests alternatives such as installing during the school holidays shows they have your best interests in mind.   

Choosing quality components  

A cheap system will perform like a cheap system. Selecting quality components will ensure your system continues to perform well into the future and reduces the risk of a fault or failure occurring.

Quality: When looking for quality components, you should look at a number of factors such as the experience of the manufacturer, the type of materials they use and the price of the product. You should also always choose a manufacturer that has an Australian presence, because if you need to claim on the warranty in the future for a faulty component, handling this with an overseas manufacturer can be very difficult.

Warranty: Warranties are important because they not only provide support should a system incur an issue, but it also reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in their components. The standard product and performance warranties for solar panels these days are 10 years or more, however industry leading warranties can be as long as 25 years. For inverters, the standard warranty is 5 years, however some are 10 years or more.

Partnerships: Choosing a solar company that has a number of partnerships with notable manufacturers highlights the solar companies’ capabilities and values, as a manufacturer wouldn’t choose to partner with a provider they didn’t have confidence in.

Solar Financing Options

There are several ways your school can access the benefits of solar without it placing a financial strain on your operations. While every school is different, there are purchase options suitable for any financial situation.

Cash/CapEx: Purchasing a system outright means your school doesn’t have to worry about ongoing repayments or interest after buying the system. The commercial solar system is completely owned and maintained by your school.

Solar PPA: A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) relieves the need for you to provide any upfront capital for a commercial solar system. Instead, the system is owned by the solar company and the school simply pays for the electricity generated by the solar system, usually at a rate that is much cheaper than energy from the grid. After the set contract period, the school can choose to purchase the system from the solar company.

Solar Leasing: One of the key benefits of solar leasing is that in many cases, the electricity cost savings generated by the solar system can offset the lease repayments for the system. This means you can have a cash-flow positive system from the day it is installed.

Solar power systems for schools can be an excellent investment and can provide many benefits. Choosing the right solar company and system can be tricky, but selecting quality over price will serve your school well into the future. Solar Energy Enterprises can answer any questions you have about a commercial solar system for your school, and can design the ideal solar system to meet your energy needs.

If you’re interested to see how solar can work for your school, contact us today for a free, no obligation discussion.

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