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RPS Awarded Innovative Grant and Partnership to Fund Solar Panels in Schools

As the new school year begins, Richmond Public Schools is making moves toward a bright year and an even brighter future thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation and a partnership with innovative clean energy company Secure Futures Solar. RVA Solar Fund, a component fund of the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, recently committed the $100,000 award to support a new Sustainability Associate position for RPS, as well as the purchase and installation of energy monitoring systems at selected school sites.

“Achieving excellence means that we must take a long-term approach, collaborate with community partners, and innovate,” said Jason Kamras, RPS Superintendent. “This power purchase agreement, and the generous supporting grant, will help us do all three, while also providing engaging opportunities for teaching and learning with clean energy technology.” 

The energy information and control systems will connect with solar panels to be installed in 2019 by Staunton-based Secure Futures with no upfront capital costs to RPS. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, the company will own and operate the solar arrays on several campuses with a total capacity of 2.59 megawatts, selling 100% of the solar power produced to the school division at a savings.

“We are always interested in connecting donors to organizations and causes that inspire them to give,” said Lisa O'Mara, Community Foundation Vice-President of Donor Engagement. “In this case, we were able to convene donors who expressed interest in growing the understanding and use of solar energy in our region. By exploring the possibilities together and pooling their charitable dollars, their impact will be greater. I know that the donors are excited that their grant will help the school system realize sustainable energy savings and bring additional educational opportunities to students at RPS.”

This initial venture into solar arrays could create more opportunities for clean energy throughout RPS moving forward.

“Our board is committed to upgrading and modernizing our school buildings as outlined in the Facilities Plan,” said Chairman Dawn Page, District 8 School Board representative. “This project will allow us to integrate solar power at some of our schools and study its impact. With a significant number of RPS construction projects on the horizon, this could potentially pave the way for a much more energy efficient and modern RPS facility portfolio, at a long-term savings to the city’s taxpayers.”

District 1 School Board representative, Liz Doerr, who wrote the grant is eager to witness the cost and energy savings that are anticipated from this partnership.

“I am so excited that the School Board voted unanimously to move forward with the RVA Solar Fund and a plan to put solar panels on select Richmond Public Schools, saving the district approximately $2M in energy costs over the next 20 years,” said Doerr. “This is a win-win-win: we save money, we obtain fantastic curriculum and hands-on teaching opportunities in green jobs, and we reduce carbon emissions.”

Learn more about RVA Solar Fund

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