Going Back to School. Moving Forward with Solar.

While this may have been a tough week for some of New York’s school kids, who, in the last few days, have headed back to class, the school districts that educate them, just got some great news:

A new, New York State program called K-Solar (read that: “K through Solar”) has just launched. It builds on the fact that school districts across the country are using solar power to reduce their second-biggest expense — energy costs – and to excite kids about science and math, and to teach them the increasingly vital skill of environmental stewardship.

K-Solar is offering the state’s 695 public school districts free, no-obligation site assessments to determine whether their roofs, parking lots and unused fields are good spots for solar power. (With K-Solar, there’s no need to consult a private engineering or architecture firm.) The program will help districts figure out whether solar is right for them, and more. If a district decides to go ahead with a solar project — schools can withdraw from the process at any time — K-Solar will walk the district through the solar development process and will offer the district enrollment in a collective purchasing plan that can save school districts 10-20 percent on the cost of solar power systems. (Most of these solar systems will come about through power-purchase agreements in which a third-party developer builds and owns the system and sells electricity back to the school at a discounted rate.)

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Already, 40 districts across the state have signed up for the initial assessment and yours can, too, by emailing solar@nypa.gov.

In an age when nearly every school district is cash-strapped and teachers are looking for new ways to engage kids in the high-employment fields of science, technology, engineering and math, solar is the answer many educators have been looking for. (Parents and other taxpayers like it, too, by the way.)

K-Solar has come about thanks to the NY-Sun Initiative, the Empire State’s plan to incentivize solar power here in New York; it was extended this year to catalyze a full 3 gigawatts of solar power by 2023. The free assessments are provided by the New York Power Authority, the state’s public power provider. The New York State Education Department is in on the action, too.

All of this means that schools from Plattsburgh to Shelter Island, West Seneca to Glens Falls can have experts fill them in on whether they can benefit from the low electric prices, great teaching and learning opportunities, and world-saving environmental benefits that solar power provides, all at everyone’s favorite price: free. 

That might not bring a smile this week to the faces of New York’s school kids, as their summers come to a close—at least not yet. (As the panels start getting installed, watch for things to change.) But for school districts and the communities that support them, K-Solar is a sunny day.

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