Solar-Powered Schools and Hospitals: Case Studies and Success Stories

May 1, 2024

Solar panel installation is on the rise. In 2023 alone, the USA broke a new record by deploying 32.4 GW of solar-powered energy. Unsurprisingly, solar has numerous benefits for commercial and residential installations. But what about non-profit communal organizations? Where can solar energy be used?

Green solar power helps:

  • Reduce carbon footprint
  • Decrease monthly electricity bills
  • Improve energy independence
  • Promote clean energy usage

No wonder solar energy adoption strikes a chord with hospitals and educational institutions nationwide.

Installing solar panels for schools helps reduce electricity expenses and creates an unprecedented educational opportunity for students to dive deep into the world of renewable energy sources. Healthcare centers choose to add solar to their energy mix for economic purposes. Additionally, independence from a local grid can be crucial to a potential power outage.

This blog post will introduce you to successful stories of capitalizing on solar power for educational institutions and healthcare centers. We will also dive into the key benefits of solar energy for schools and hospitals and solar project design peculiarities.

How To Finance Solar Panels for Schools

When considering a solar panel installation for an educational facility, you discover several financing options. Many school facilities purchase their solar panel systems 100% to enjoy the benefits of solar energy.

Other educational centers find financing solar panels for schools more beneficial via a power purchase agreement (PPA). This allows them to buy the solar energy produced by their solar arrays at a discounted rate.

For some schools, it is better to apply for a solar lease. If you install solar panels for schools using a PPA or a solar lease, the solar developer will be responsible for system maintenance. In contrast, the school will enjoy the advantages of solar energy.

Let’s also discuss the option of purchasing an outright solar system. Most education facilities prefer to buy solar arrays as they become eligible for various government solar panel rebates and tax incentives. However, because schools are non-profit organizations, there might be some limitations to educational incentive programs that academic institutions can apply to. Cooperating with an experienced solar provider who can help you navigate the legal aspects of solar installation is essential.

Graphics showing projected lifetime solar savings based on a type of solar incentive.

Source: EcoWatch

Solar Panels for Schools: Key Benefits

Schools and other educational facilities have taken the initiative to adopt solar power for various reasons. No one can deny the obvious financial benefits of solar energy for schools. However, solar panels for schools should not be reduced to a money-saving option only.

We offer you the opportunity to review other benefits of solar energy for schools.

Solar for Schools Decreases Energy Expenses

Many believe solar energy is the key to easing the financial stress levels of educational facilities. Indeed, K-12 schools across the US require extensive electricity to power office equipment and ensure proper lighting throughout the buildings. It makes them one of the primary energy consumers across the country.

  • A typical US high school requires up to 10 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.

Unfortunately, solar energy is unlikely to satisfy all schools’ energy needs. As a result, US educational institutions should still rely on a local grid. Why not enjoy the benefits of solar energy, then?

Despite such considerable energy demands, solar panels for schools can still provide much-needed relief to tight school budgets. Solar for schools can lead to more predictable energy costs and is a compelling long-term energy solution. On average, solar arrays can pay back the installation costs within 6-8 years.

Solar Panels for Schools Raise Environmental Awareness

One of the benefits of solar energy for schools is that it serves as a great real-world learning opportunity. These solar panel systems do more than electrify classrooms. They are adopting bright and innovative solar ideas for students.

Renewable energy integrated into everyday students’ lives can spark a discussion of environmental awareness. Educators can use school solar panels to discuss more sustainable energy solutions. In addition, it can be a great example of circular economy principles and energy conservation practices.

Finally, solar panels for schools can assist teachers in improving community engagement. It fosters a shared responsibility for the future and encourages students to support sustainable initiatives.

Additional Benefits of Solar Energy for Schools

Beyond the financial and educational benefits of solar energy, solar panels for schools have other advantages, which we will discuss below.

Property value goes up Equipping school facilities with solar panel systems will increase their property prices in the future. It is possible due to improved sustainability and energy sufficiency.
Solar improves public image Solar panel usage is tightly associated with environmental responsibility and commitment to renewable energy sources. Such values create a positive image of an institution in the eyes of the community.
Air quality increases Moving away from traditional fossil fuels contributes to the improved quality of air, leading to a healthier environment in the long run.

Solar Panels for Schools Design Peculiarities

When installing solar panels on school buildings, solar installers must address specific considerations. School rooftops are often old and covered with aged materials. That’s why solar installation companies should carefully inspect roof conditions to ensure their safety.

A significant advantage of school facilities is that their flat roofs provide multiple spaces for separate solar panel installations. Although this may be inconvenient, the flat rooftop helps maximize solar energy production and use the benefits of solar energy to its fullest.

Since solar energy for schools is an excellent opportunity to promote renewable energy solutions, it is crucial to encourage students’ participation in solar system design.

Installing display monitors is another way to keep students engaged in solar technology. Using access portals, they can observe solar energy production in real time.

Solar Hospitals: Pros and Cons

Renewable energy used to promote solar healthcare has advantages and specific challenges. What are some pros and cons of a solar-powered hospital?

Let’s discuss some of the reasons why solar medical facilities should become more common.

Solar panel installation on the roof of a medical facility building.


Solar on Hospitals Reduces Operation Cost

Despite the high initial investment, relying on renewable energy is much cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Once the installation is over, solar healthcare facilities can start saving significant financial resources, which they can redirect to fulfill other projects.

Solar Powered Hospitals Have Better Public Image

Due to increased environmental concerns, fossil fuels are losing their popularity in the modern energy climate. The general public associates them with various health issues caused by environmental pollutants. Thus, non-renewable energy sources release substances that can lead to respiratory disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and early death.

That’s why communities welcome replacing fossil fuels with solar energy on hospital building roofs.

Solar Medical Institutions Have a Lower Carbon Footprint

Among the benefits of solar energy for hospitals is a reduced carbon footprint. An average solar panel system produces 20 times less emissions during its lifespan than coal. In addition, it is possible to recycle solar panels to minimize their environmental impact when they stop functioning correctly.

Solar Healthcare Centers Are Energy Independent

Solar medical institutions gain independence from energy price fluctuations. Solar energy cost doesn’t depend on the cost of natural resources. After solar system installation, solar hospitals can enjoy stable electricity prices.

Although there are multiple benefits of solar energy for hospitals, it isn’t free from shortcomings. Let’s examine some disadvantages of solar energy adoption for healthcare centers.

Possible Cons of Solar Hospitals
Energy production limitations Unfortunately, fossil fuels remain more efficient when it comes to energy generation. Solar panel electricity production may vary depending on weather conditions, which can be inconvenient for large-scale solar health institutions.
Initial investment cost Solar hospitals face a costly initial investment when they start installing solar panels. Healthcare facilities typically have high energy demands, so many of them need help financing a renewable energy transition.
Availability issues Renewable energy production requires various types of materials that are unavailable at the hospital’s location. As a result, solar transition may involve an elaborate energy transportation system. Such logistics issues often lead to extra expenses for solar medical facilities.
Climate dependence Solar panel systems are susceptible to weather and other climatic changes. For example, heavy rains and wind can decrease solar hospitals’ energy production and increase energy consumption.

Case Studies of Solar Panels for Schools and Hospitals

We would like to introduce some real-life examples of successful solar energy adoption by educational and medical facilities.

An aerial view of a building with solar panels on the roof.

Pennsylvania’s Success Story of Solar For Schools

Pennsylvania K-12 schools have almost tripled the number of solar panels installed during the last ten years, increasing the capacity of the state solar panels from 14 MW to 39 MW. Still, Pennsylvania hasn’t fulfilled its solar potential, as only 2% of K-12 schools generate electricity.

What can we attribute such rapid growth of solar panels for schools to? One critical factor in promoting solar is state funding programs, which help cut the costs of solar panels for schools. The Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania reports the launch of grant programs or low-interest loans for 53 school facilities, almost half of the solar-equipped schools in the area.

In addition, the Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) made it possible to combine state funding programs with federal funding opportunities. Such an initiative helps educational institutions finance solar for schools and start enjoying the benefits of solar energy.

Despite the stable growth in the use of solar energy for school facilities, Pennsylvania still has room for improvement. Northern and western Pennsylvania have started joining solar initiatives. Renewable energy savings, including solar panels on schools, are predicted to be responsible for $19 million in energy savings in the next 25 years.

Kaiser Richmond Medical Center: A Solar Medical Pioneer in CA

What state has the most solar panels? California gained its nickname “sunny state” for a good reason. The state champions solar energy adoption, with more than 10 million homes using it as a primary energy source in 2024.

No wonder the California medical facility first adopted a renewable energy microgrid. Kaiser Richmond Medical Center succeeded in collecting, storing, and releasing energy on demand. The center installed a 250-kilowatt solar panel on top of its 5-level parking garage. The system effectively meets the center’s electrical demand using cleaner energy only.

Kaiser Permanente reached carbon neutral in 2020 and is predicted to become “carbon net positive” by 2025. It means that the system’s capacity will be sufficient to buy enough clean energy to eliminate more greenhouse gases from the environment than it produces.

  • Richmond Solar Medical Center’s annual savings equal 2.63 MWh of energy, saving around $390,000.

This solar-powered hospital increased interest in battery storage technology, particularly in medical office facilities. Richmond Medical Center is a solar medical institution capable of providing renewable energy to critical hospital systems. It ensures much-needed independence in case of an emergency power outage.

Future Initiatives To Encourage Solar for Schools and Hospitals

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) intended to reimburse state initiatives to rebuild damaged public buildings after natural disasters. As a result, such facilities as hospitals and schools will be able to install solar panel systems and experience the benefits of solar energy, including better energy resilience. The plan covers 75% of repairing costs, including expenses associated with solar infrastructure.

The increase in natural disaster frequency makes energy independence increasingly critical. Solar medical and educational facilities can serve as places where residents can access electricity after a disaster if the local grid stops functioning. In addition, solar hospitals and schools can shelter people who have lost their homes.

Are Solar Panels in Schools and Hospitals Worth It?

In conclusion, solar panels for schools and hospitals enable these facilities to experience the benefits of solar energy. They can improve their energy resilience in case of power outages or natural disasters, reduce their carbon footprint, and save up on electricity bills. Though solar for schools and medical institutions comes with some limitations and possible inconvenience, it is a smart move toward a greener energy future.

Jed Hilton
Jed Hilton

Jed Hilton, our Founder and CEO, has over a decade of experience in the solar industry. His innovative leadership and expertise in solar technologies guide our company's vision and strategy.