Innovative financing is allowing schools in Georgia to go green. Renewable energy is commonly associated with blue states but Georgia makes the point that this is changing. Since 1996 the state of Georgia has consistently voted red and yet schools in the state are turning to renewable energy to reduce costs. According to a recent report several Georgia universities are taking the lead in clean energy. A growing number of cities are also following the lead of Atlanta, Augusta, Athens and Clarkston in adopting 100% clean energy goals.
Recently a private school in Atlanta has laid out its plans for renewable energy leadership. The SAE school in Mableton is building a 30 kW rooftop solar array that will save the school an average of $15,000 in utilities every year or $150,000 over a 10-year time period. After that 10-year time period, they will save about $30,000 per year. This will further lower costs at SAE which are already around half of other metro Atlanta schools. Keeping costs low helps the school to better serve their diverse student body (85% minority student body) by keeping tuition low.
The SAE School will soon be Georgia’s first to be powered entirely by solar energy. The SAE School’s newly installed solar array complements other building upgrades and was made possible through GoodUse grants and private investment and federal tax credits.The project also benefited from legislation for Solar Energy Procurement Agreements (SEPA) which provides for the sale of electricity generated through the solar project to The SAE School at a rate that allows a savings of approximately $15,000 a year in utility costs. After approximately 10 years, the school will have the option to purchase the solar infrastructure and therefore almost eliminate their cost of electricity for the remaining life of the project.
The school has already conducted resource efficiency upgrades and indoor air quality improvements through grants from Southface’s GoodUse program. The solar array is the crowning achievement and is part of the school’s plan to become net zero, an initiative that is monitored by students through a real-time digital monitor in the school’s lobby. SAE students do community work and learn about sustainable best practices. All of these efforts are a reflection of the SAE’s environmentally focused philosophy. SAE School is setting an example for other schools in the state and across the country.
Gretchen Gigley, Program Manager of Nonprofit Solutions for Southface Institute wants other schools to follow SAE’s lead. She points out that although getting to net-zero can seem unattainable the financing arrangement at SAE demonstrate that it is doable.
For more information about Southface’s GoodUse program click here.