Advocates seeking to add more solar panels to Virginia schools

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — The number of schools in Virginia that have embraced solar power has tripled since 2017 - from 29 to 86 - according to a new report by Charlottesville-based 'Generation 180.'

Solar panels at Clymore Elementary School in Augusta County

Albemarle County was the first school system in Virginia to start using solar panels in 2015.

Generation 180 says more schools are going solar because of the cost savings, opportunities for students to learn about renewable energy, and positive environmental impacts.

Ninety percent of the solar panels installed on schools during the past two years were financed by purchase power agreements. These plans require little-to-no upfront costs because a third-party purchases, maintains, and owns the solar panels while the school only pays for the electricity generated by the system.

However, experts are worried a cap on these agreements set by the state could prevent more schools from going solar.

"The cap on net metering limits the amount of solar that customers can put on the grid from their homes, businesses, schools. So we want to see that cap lifted,” Generation 180 Program Director Tish Tablan said.

Over the next few months, Generation 180 and other solar advocates will work with lawmakers to establish legislation that removes both utility barriers, and ensures equal access for all schools in the state.