Schools Go Solar

September 20, 2017
Students in Reno, Nevada, pose behind their school’s solar panels.
BLACK ROCK SOLAR

There are lots of trees near the schools in Sheridan, Indiana. Their leaves soak up sunlight, which they turn into energy.

The sun fuels more than just plants, in Sheridan. It keeps schools running, too. School solar panels turn the power of sunbeams into energy.

When sunlight hits a solar panel, tiny particles in the panel called electrons start to move around. This creates electricity.

Sheridan Community Schools is the first school district in Indiana to be completely solar-powered. The panels “can power all of our buildings,” Doug Miller told TFK. He is the superintendent of Sheridan Community Schools.

Sheridan’s solar push is part of a trend. In 2008, fewer than 1,000 schools used solar power. By 2014, there were 3,727 schools with solar panels. These numbers come from the Solar Foundation. It is a group that promotes the use of solar power. Roxie Brown, a program director there, told TFK that the number of schools with solar panels is still going up.

Costs and Benefits

Solar power has advantages over other energy sources. Sunlight is a renewable resource. That means it won’t run out. Solar panels don’t hurt the environment. Also, sunlight is free. So solar power can help schools save money over time.

Brown thinks more schools should run on solar power. “The sun is [Earth’s] energy source,” she says. “We’re trying to make it the energy source for our houses, cars, and schools, too.”

Switching to solar power isn’t easy. Solar panels can be expensive. They also take up space. But going solar is worth it for many schools. “I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks,” Miller says.

Workers install solar panels on the roof of an elementary school in Denver, Colorado.

JIM WEST—ALAMY

A Bright Future

Solar panels can also help students learn. Teachers at schools that use solar power often teach lessons about it. “The kids talk about it in the classroom. Then they can go look at it in action,” Miller says.

Miller hopes the panels will give Sheridan students a global perspective. “The world is bigger than the boundaries of our school district,” he says. “We’re doing things to help the world as a whole.”