Springfield Public Schools is struggling to keep up with demand for solar panels and electric vehicles.
Schools are struggling to accommodate more students than expected.
And even with the sun shining, Springfield students are getting less than the solar panel cost.
It’s a story of education and the power of collaboration.
“We were one of the first districts in the state to adopt solar panels,” says Jennifer Crouch, the school district’s communications director.
She says the school has had about 30 panels installed since it was founded in 1872.
The district is in the process of installing two more.
Crouch says solar panels are being used in classrooms as well as in buildings.
Schools like Springfield’s will need more solar panels in the coming months.
“Solar is a big deal,” says Crouch.
“The kids love it, the teachers love it.
The parents love it.”
But not every school district has embraced solar as enthusiastically as Springfield has.
“They’re in the dark,” says Steve Paine, a Springfield public school board member.
“I’m a big fan of the solar panels.”
Paine says solar panel installation has been a hot topic for a while now.
But now, Paine believes solar panels have been making it into schools like Springfields.
“It’s a great thing,” says Paine.
“There are some people that aren’t interested.
They’re afraid that solar panels will kill off the industry, that it will take away jobs.”
Pileau is one of those people.
He says he’s worried that his district might not be able to keep its lights on in the event of a potential solar eclipse.
“If we’re going to have a solar event, we’re not going to get the solar power we need,” says his district’s Superintendent of Schools.
He’s concerned about the potential for the panels to lose their effectiveness over time.
Paine and his district have been meeting regularly with other districts across the state about their solar systems.
“In our district, we have one system,” says the superintendent.
“And it’s a 100 percent solar system.”
Piles said the district also has a solar project that uses solar panels to power a heating system for the schools heating and cooling system.
But the district does not plan to install any solar panels for its schools.
“So, we’ll be using a solar array,” says Springfield Schools Superintendent Steven Paine on the school’s solar project.
“But we are still working with the federal government to determine how much of the grid energy is going to go to our solar array.”
Pines’ solar project will provide a small amount of electricity for the school, and Paine hopes that will help to save the district money in the long run.
But that doesn’t mean the school can ignore the solar energy that is coming their way.
Piles says that he and his colleagues are working to come up with a plan to replace the school heating system that was installed last year.
But it’s going to be a long process.
“That’s a big issue with our schools,” says school board chair Tom Hensley.
“Because our buildings have got the best solar panel systems.”
The school board has hired a consulting firm to develop an alternative to the school solar project, which is expected to cost $10,000.
But for now, Henslee says the district is going ahead with its solar project anyway.
“This is something that we’re just trying to get to the point where it’s affordable and we can put it on as a way to keep our schools from being impacted,” says Hensleys office.
Pileaus hopes that Springfield will be the first district to install solar panels.
“Our students are going to love this,” he says.
“A lot of the time, students are just going to want to have an electric car or a solar system for school.”
Sources: The American Conservatives, The American Community Survey, Pew Research Center, Piles, Pains, Pines, school board