A school in rural Arkansas has made the important switch to renewable energy, covering a field in solar panels to power their school district and saving heaps of money in the process.
Deciding to then take it one step further, Batesville school then used their impressive savings on utility bills to raise their teachers' salaries by up to $15,000 each, marking possibly the first time savings from renewables have translated directly into pay rises.
Not only do their field of solar panels, of which there is now nearly 1,500 power the school district, but the leftover power can also be sold back to the grid to power the local area too. Prior to their installation, the district’s utility bills surpassed $600,000 per year, leaving the area in a tricky financial situation.
Teachers were paid poorly, many of which were forced to leave. Responsible for 3,200 students across 6 institutions, continuous turnover of teachers made running the district a difficult task.
An audit revealed that by installing a modern energy infrastructure, including an array of solar panels, $2.4 million could be saved over the next 20 years, solving their monetary problems whilst reducing the carbon footprint of the area.
In 2017, an unused field was transformed into a landscape of solar panels, and recently the front of the high school also received panels.
Between their slashed utility savings and their energy generation, the extra income going straight to teachers has meant Batesville has quickly risen the ranks, from one of the lowest average salaries in the county to one of the best, reports CBS News.
When asked whether the teachers knew anything about the new initiative, Jeanne Roepcke, one of the teachers who received a raise, said:
“Nope. No, it would not have been one of the things that I thought. But, what a great idea. The sun is going to be shining anyway, so why not cash in on that?”
Jeanne has a point – renewable energy is now the cheapest it has ever been. The USA is investing heavily in renewable energy, with 11.4% of total energy production coming from wind, solar, and others. Prices to install solar power and wind turbines have sharply reduced in recent years, with the average cost of price per watt for solar panels currently sitting between $2.50 and $3.50, which is down 82% since the last decade.
The shift towards renewables has certainly begun, and many areas will likely follow Batesville in cutting both costs and their carbon footprint. Even large companies are doing away with fossil fuels, with car manufacturer Audi recently announcing they shall be abandoning the development of the combustion engine.