Solar installers can emphasize education to secure school contracts

Gann Academy Solar System Construction

Solar’s growth is evident in the number of schools making the switch to green energy. According to SEIA, there are now approximately 5,500 schools across the US with solar installations. As an installer, it’s beneficial for you to seek out and encourage more schools to join this movement.

Why schools?

For starters, the untapped potential is incredible. According to the Brighter Future report by The Solar Foundation, Generation 180 and SEIA, only 4.4% of schools across the country have gone solar. However, given how much roof space schools typically have available, going solar is not only a viable option, but is actually a good decision for a staggering 80% of schools across the country.

In addition to being a viable opportunity for academic institutions, going solar is generally a no-brainer given all of the incredible benefits. The utility savings, environmental impact and enhanced school image in the community all make going solar a win-win and an easy sell. There’s even an educational component available in many cases. SunPower Horizons is just one example of a program that comes free with a school’s installation (if the school chooses SunPower panels)—and can be a very influential incentive.

But before you seek out schools to solarize, there are a few important things to consider as an installer:

Request For Proposal (RFP)

Most school districts are required to submit an RFP. While this makes sense for schools as it allows them to “shop around” for the best price, this can make profit margins thin for installers and make vying for a project very competitive. This also extends the timeline of a project, so just make sure to keep this in mind when approaching a school.


This is an extremely important consideration. Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes to set up interconnection and the costliness of the process can vary widely. In order to make sure a specific school project is viable for your company, be sure to factor in the interconnection cost ranges when establishing the financing terms.

Net Metering

As you may know, some states are experiencing changes in their net metering policies. In one example in the Brighter Future Report, the solar process for The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District in New York had to be expedited to ensure a more favorable net metering rate.

Electricity Usage

We spoke to a solar developer in Stamford, Connecticut—Green Street Power Partners (GSPP), to see what advice they had for solar installers when it comes to schools. “Make sure to do plenty of research on the electricity usage of each school in a particular district. When we helped the Attleboro School District go solar, we spent a decent amount of time learning how much power each school used so we could then appropriately allocate the power from the system,” said Samantha Lennon, EVP commercial operations. GSPP’s first solar school was one of the largest rooftop installations in the Northeast at 4.1 MW. GSPP is also in the process of bringing solar to four other schools in the Northeast.

Now you’re familiar with some of the potential challenges, but before you dive into the school market, our last piece of advice is to research local school projects to see how they went solar. Below we have five different project examples in five different states—some complete and a couple currently under construction to give you a bit more insight on projects of varying sizes and types.

Completed projects

Attleboro School District—Attleboro, Massachusetts
This system offsets 75% of utility costs for their nine schools (elementary, middle, and high).









  • Size: 4.1 MW
  • Savings: ~$3.5 million
  • Impact: 30 acres of forest preserved each year
  • Project developerGreen Street Power Partners
  • Installation: Rooftop (two roofs), SunPower panels


San Ramon Valley Schools—Danville, California
Facing difficult budget cuts, San Ramon turned to renewable energy to help offset electricity costs.








  • Size: 3 MW
  • Savings: $24.4 million
  • Impact: 24 acres of forest preserved each year
  • Project Developer: SunPower
  • Installation: Parking canopies, SunPower panels


Discover Elementary—Arlington, Virginia
This school is a zero energy designed building, so the school is operating on 100% renewable energy.








  • Size: 495 kW
  • Savings: $2.5 M
  • Impact: 4 acres of forest preserved each year
  • Project DeveloperVMDO
  • Installation: Rooftop


Projects under construction

Albertus Magnus College—New Haven, Connecticut
AMC opted for solar carports to get the added covered parking benefits on top of their solar savings.








  • Size: 1.6 MW
  • Savings: $225,000
  • Impact: 12 acres of forest preserved each year
  • Project Developer: Green Street Power Partners
  • Installation: Rooftop—two roofs, using SunPower panels


The League School—Brooklyn, New York
This particular Brooklyn school has a very unique mission—dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with psychiatric and developmental disabilities.

  • Size: 64 kW
  • Savings: $64,400
  • Impact: 0.5 acres of forest preserved each year
  • Project Developer: Green Street Power Partners
  • Installation: Rooftop

Hopefully with this wide range of examples, as well as the brief guide on the process and challenges, you feel fully equipped to seek out solar projects to add to your portfolio. And of course, don’t underestimate the powerful impact of helping a nonprofit.