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This School District Could Save Millions by Switching to 100% Solar
Schools all across the country have been switching to solar to save money and reduce their environmental impact, and North Carolina may be the next state to benefit.
Two reports, released today by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center and commissioned by the Repower Our Schools coalition, found that two North Carolina school districts can go 100 percent renewable.
The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, based at NC State University, found that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Durham Public Schools can meet 100 percent of their electricity needs and save millions over the next 25 years by installing solar panels to power their schools immediately.
Reducing energy costs is a smart way to direct more money into the classroom, where it’s needed most. Utility bills are the second largest expense for school districts after personnel costs, according to the U.S. EPA.
With more solar-friendly policies in the state, including third party energy sales and improved net metering, the school districts’ savings would jump 14 times compared to the current benefits of going solar. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states with a legal gray area that effectively blocks purchasing electricity from anyone but the utility.
Solar policy improvements could save $54.6 million for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and $16.3 million for Durham Public Schools over 25 years, an 11 percent savings over what they pay for electricity now, with minimal upfront costs. The savings over 25 years would be equivalent to 1,357 annual starting teacher salaries for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and 414 for Durham Public Schools, which is a substantially smaller school district.
Here’s an infographic that explains the benefits of third party energy sales and net metering:
Not only does solar save money, it can also be a teaching tool for science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Solar installations at North Carolina schools would bring the jobs of tomorrow into the classroom today,” Dr. Wafa Khalil, a retired science and energy teacher of 23 years based in Durham, said. “Teachers could incorporate solar into the curriculum and let students witness its advantages firsthand.”
The reports recommend that both North Carolina school districts develop plans to move schools toward 100 percent renewable electricity long-term while continuing to make energy efficiency improvements and piloting solar projects today.
Parents, teachers and students who want to see their school districts go solar for the health, environmental and economic benefits can take action by calling on their school boards to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity.
Hanna Mitchell is North Carolina field organizer for Greenpeace.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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