The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has launched a unique crowdfunding campaign to support a new initiative to help schools purchase and install rooftop solar systems. The crowdfunding campaign – a first for NRDC – initially seeks to raise $54,000 through the site Indiegogo to help three to five to-be-determined schools move forward with solar rooftop projects. At least one of the locations will be selected by contributors to the campaign, who can vote on the city of their choice.
As part of the campaign, NRDC also is developing an online platform that local schools can use to navigate the pathway to obtain solar power. The site will detail state and local rules regarding solar power installations across America, and connect schools and communities with organizations and experts that can support them each step of the way.
“Our ultimate goal is help every school that wants solar power to get it,” said NRDC renewable energy policy director Nathanael Greene. “If we can hold fundraisers for field trips and sports teams, we can do the same to get our schools on solar. Switching to clean, renewable solar energy helps the environment and the health of our local communities, but also helps schools to cut energy expenses and funnel the savings to other programs.”
The benefits to local schools and students can be substantial. In California, for instance, the Firebaugh-Las Deltas United School District was able to reinstate a music program for 2,300 students after installing solar on its schools, thanks to an estimated $900,000 in energy cost savings. Students also get a first-hand look at how solar energy works, and a real life lesson on why science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is important.
“Numerous organizations and programs – mainly through utilities – are putting solar panels on schools,” said Jay Orfield, environmental innovation fellow in NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation. “What’s different about our program is that it aims to make solar an option for any school, anywhere, by beginning with local school administrators, parents, teachers, students and communities and giving them the tools to they need to make solar power a reality.
NRDC is partnering with several other organizations on the campaign, including The Solar Foundation, Community Power Network, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (Solar 4R Schools) and Three Birds Foundation.