As a family, we live off the grid. In our community, nearly 25 percent of residents do as well. With so much knowledge and alternative energy around us, how do we find the funding to turn our school solar?
Our community is very small (about 230 people) and our school is taught by one teacher in grades K-8. There are only nine students in the whole school.
Regular grid power is unreliable often in the winter time in this mountain region. This past winter the town was without power for nine days. No power means no school. Not only would solar power be an educational and environmental bonus for the school, it would be a blessing as well for uninterrupted education.
I have looked for grants online specific to funding solar installations at schools. The only program I could find was Solar Schools from PG&E.
Bright Ideas Grants
The PG&E Solar Schools Program hopes that your new solar installation is just the spark of solar exploration in your school. That’s why we have dedicated $250,000 to support “bright ideas” grants. Your school may apply for a $2,500 or $5,000 grant to be used for innovative classroom and extra curricular programs that further the exploration of solar energy. Past winners have explored solar energy for cooking and created solar gardens to harness the sun’s energy for irrigation. The grant is only limited to your imagination. Here are some ideas from past winners:
- Create a solar garden lab
- Build a solar pump to operate an aquatic field studies campus pond
- Organize a solar race car derby
- Create an energy-efficient solar classroom using a small-scale PV system
- “Feed a village” using solar ovens
- Create a solar art exhibit
- Purchase advanced solar energy kits
Unfortunately for us, you have to be in a PG&E service area to apply, and we are part of a public utility district. There is a self-funded grant option; however, the only application I could find was from 2008-2009. I’ve sent off emails to The Foundation for Environmental Education, as well as other rural schools with photovoltaic. Nothing has come to fruition.
Since the community is so small, it is not entirely realistic to think funding can come locally. We already ask our residents to contribute for field trips, art supplies, preschool and a scholarship. I hadn’t thought of looking towards crowdfunding as a solution until I read former Eco Child’s Play writer Derek Markham’s post on Treehugger about a fourth grade class in North Carolina:
“We believe in the sun and would like to fundraise to get enough money to buy solar panels for our classroom so we do not have to use any electricity from the power plant. We have been doing research on how much electricity we use to power our classroom so we know how many solar panels we need, and how much money it will cost. We will figure out how how to design and build a solar array, and with help we can make our classroom off the grid. We’re really excited about teaching others in our school and community about the power of solar energy.” - Aaron’s Class
The original Kickstarter campaign set out to raise $800 for a simple PV system to provide electricity for their classroom use, but the class has already raised almost $2700 toward their project, so that’s a sure thing for them. But the campaign still has two days left to run, so now they’re shooting for a bit bigger of a goal:
“The more we raise over $2000, the more panels we’ll be able to buy to sell clean electricity to our community! If we can raise $3000 we’ll be able to make almost 1kw of clean energy for the grid.”
If you have any other ideas, please let me know!
Image: Solar And Wind – Solar and wind collectors in backyard of a school on Bigstock