Bipartisan legislation that proposes the installation of solar panels in schools across Pennsylvania awaits a vote in the state Senate.
The Solar for Schools bill aims to combat climate change and invest in education. Fewer than 2% of Pennsylvania’s nearly 7,000 schools are powered by solar energy.
Mick Iskric is superintendent of Steelton-Highspire School District, which has a 42-acre urban school campus that serves more than 1,300 students from low-income families. He explained that, after partnering with McClure Company to install solar panels, the district now sees a monthly credit on its electric bill.
Iskric is convinced the legislation would be a game-changer for school districts in the Commonwealth.
“And then ultimately, all that savings, what we’re trying to do is get more funding to offset our expenses and get more programming for students,” Iskric said. “So, the more money I save, the more support I can get directly into the classroom.”
According to Iskric, the district has achieved 100% reliance on solar power for its electricity and will save an estimated $1.6 million over the next 20 years.
In the meantime, the Inflation Reduction Act offers access to clean-energy tax credits, with an emphasis on reaching disadvantaged populations and communities with environmental justice concerns.
Iskric also noted the district has recently received seven electric school buses through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Grant Program, which will be in the fleet for the 2024-2025 school year. He asserted that Steelton-Highspire is the only district in the country that transports students with 100% electric buses charged with solar energy.
“We’re looking to expand if this bill comes through,” he posited, “and I’d really love for some community solar to come through along with it or down the road so that homeowners can offset their electric bills — really try to tie the school to the community, community to the school.”
Iskric also suggested a prospective plan to assist teachers in the region by offering free electric car charging for district employees and implementing other incentives to attract new talent. He acknowledged that, while innovation is a driving force behind these initiatives, it is also a necessity to address staffing challenges.
The Pennsylvania State Senate is set to reconvene on Dec. 11.
This story was based on original reporting by Audrey Carleton for Capital & Main.