In 2017, Batesville School District in Arkansas had an energy audit conducted to figure out how much money it was losing to annual utility bills. The school district soon found out that it was spending more than $600,000 a year on utility bills—a steep price for a cash-strapped school district struggling to retain teachers.
The energy audit did reveal some good news though: the school district could save at least $2.4 million over 20 years if it outfitted Batesville High School with more than 1,400 solar panels and updated all of the district’s facilities with new lights, heating, and cooling systems, and windows. The giant sum of money that Batesville School District could save got superintendent Michael Hester thinking: what if we use that money to pump up teacher salaries?
“It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff,” said Hester. “And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.”
Hester’s ideas received a warm welcome, and soon the school district embarked on a comprehensive energy-efficient project that slashed Batesville’s annual energy consumption by 1.6 million kilowatts and generated enough savings in three years to turn the district’s $250,000 budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus. By doing do so, the district could provide raises between $2,000 and $3,000 per educator. Incredible!
Clean energy nonprofit Generation 180 says the Batesville School District isn’t alone in switching to renewable energy. Across the US, at least 7,300 schools are using solar to save on utilities and introduce students to renewable energy.
Generation 180 says that if every US public school were to use 100 percent solar power, the education system could drive emissions reductions that would be equivalent to closing 18 coal-fired power plants. What are we waiting for?