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Some US Schools Getting Electricity from the Sun


Students at Fremont High School in Fremont, Indiana.

The cost for homes in the United States to "go solar" has dropped by more than 60 percent over the last 10 years.

“Going solar” means changing to an electrical source powered by the sun instead of coal or other dirty fuels.

The dropping costs helped persuade more than a million Americans to put solar panels on top of their homes.

Now, some public school systems are doing the same, including the schools in Fremont, Indiana. The people in this small town have always depended on sunshine to grow their crops and help bring visitors to their lakes.

William Stitt leads Fremont’s school system.

"The technology has advanced so much in the last couple of years that it’s become more energy efficient, more cost effective for schools to get solar energy.”

Start-up costs

Fremont will spend $3 million to build the solar project. When the system is in place, it will fully power the elementary, middle and high school buildings. It may even produce additional electricity that the school can sell to the power company.

Several lines of 3,000 to 4,000 panels will be placed in a 2.5-hectare solar field behind the middle school. The school system will pay the local electricity company for use of its solar equipment. That periodic fee is to remain the same for 20 years.

An illustration of the solar field being built for the Fremont school system in Fremont, Indiana. The solar field will be located behind the middle school, on farm land owned by the school district.
An illustration of the solar field being built for the Fremont school system in Fremont, Indiana. The solar field will be located behind the middle school, on farm land owned by the school district.

Free electricity, one day

Kim Quick is the head of building operations for the Fremont school system.

He said Fremont schools will save money even with equipment fees. Unlike electricity costs, the equipment use fees will not go up. And, Quick said, the panels should last 40 years.

After the 20 years of fees, the school district will fully own the panels. Then, the electric power they create will be free of cost.

Some solar schools cost more

Just three percent of the nation’s 125,000 schools use some form of solar power. Some have higher related costs than others. But, a recent report from the Solar Foundation, a non-profit interest group, says that 72,000 U.S. schools, or 60 percent, could save money with solar.

Schools could put panels on their buildings or place a field of panels over a car park. The Solar Foundation says those methods would save most schools an average of $1 million over 30 years.

Educational opportunities

Going solar might also offer schools valuable educational possibilities. It gives teachers a reason to teach related lessons on science, technology, engineering and math.

All three schools in Fremont will have a display that kids can visit daily to learn how much energy is being used and saved.

Fremont school system’s William Stitt is already looking to the future.

"I’d love the community and the kids in 40 years to go, 'Man, they made a great decision 40 years ago by creating this solar project!'”

If all goes as planned, the Fremont school system’s new solar field will be in operation by July.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Erika Celeste reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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Words in This Story

solar panel - n. a large, flat piece of equipment that uses the sun's light or heat to create electricity

advanced - adj. having or using new and modern methods

efficient - adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

display - n. an arrangement of objects intended to decorate, advertise, entertain, or inform people about something

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