Creating Jobs, Saving Taxpayers Money & Helping the Planet

A recent report from the business organization, Advanced Energy Economy, revealed that more than 40% of the advanced energy jobs in Virginia are right here in Northern Virginia - Loudoun County ranked second in the state behind Fairfax County. Their report also revealed that 62% of business owners found it difficult to find qualified personnel. What an opportunity for Loudoun County Public Schools for job training.

Other local school systems are not only installing solar at no upfront capital cost to taxpayers, they are also using them as a teaching moment for their students. And, while an affluent school district like Arlington is undertaking such efforts at the Discovery Elementary School, so is the Bath County Public School system which is located in rural Virginia. Again, what an educational opportunity for Loudoun County Public Schools.

Of course some will suggest that solar is not affordable and our school system should focus its attention elsewhere. Well, if this was 2010 I would agree with them. However, with the significant reduction in the cost of solar equipment and the fact there are private sector firms and others willing to place the solar on the schools at no cost and share in the savings; that barrier has been eliminated.

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission developed a map of every building in the region (that was existing at the time) to gauge its solar potential - the NoVA Solar Map. The map uses a sophisticated algorithm to measure the roof, take into account sun exposure, structures on the roof, weather, day and time, time of the year, etc. This information is then utilized to generate how large a solar array would fit on the roof of the building and the potential energy cost savings.

The picture is of Loudoun Valley High School as seen on the NoVA Solar Map. The program calculated that a 1.2 MW solar array could fit on the roof of the building and the associated value of the electricity generated by the array would be $136,222 at the rate of 11 cents per kWh. Now to be fair, local government entities do not pay the full 11 cents to Dominion Energy, but if a private sector firm would install the array on the building at no upfront cost there is savings regardless of the rate paid.

It is foolish to believe these are not the jobs of the future. To the contrary there has been significant job growth in this area and for those students who may not go on to college a great opportunity to earn a living in a technology and industry that is rapidly changing and growing. We need to recognize those additional opportunities in our public school system.

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