Student initiative is complemented by state legislative action to support the adoption of clean energy across the commonwealth. Passed this past year by the General Assembly, the Virginia Clean Economy Act boosts the widespread adoption of solar electric systems. The legislation reformed net metering, the process through which solar customers like schools can be reimbursed at specific rates for excess power they produce and export back to the grid. Recent adjustments to state regulatory guidelines also streamlined the process for coordinating with utilities to add solar projects to the grid.
Technology developments also make solar attractive to schools. Improvements in solar electric system design make it easier for schools to add solar to their buildings, parking lots and other unused space on the school grounds. Smaller, more compact arrays that deliver increased power levels allow schools to conserve space while still reaching sustainability goals.
As the state works to achieve aggressive clean energy goals set forth in the Virginia Clean Economy Act, schools have become the perfect home for solar projects. Combined with federal legislation that extended incentives for solar projects as part of the COVID-19 relief package at the end of this past year, Virginia’s fast transition likely will continue. According to Virginia nonprofit Generation180, in the past six years, the amount of solar installed on schools has grown more than a hundredfold in the state.