With a greater focus turned toward the need to better fund public education it makes sense to look at ways districts can save money.
State Sen. Mary Boren's interim study to look at the feasibility of using solar energy to power schools would further that objective. The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing the solar and solar-compatible technologies, revealed in a recent report that more than half of the nation's school districts would realize an economic benefit by installing solar technology.
Boren said the potential savings for Oklahoma school districts could range from hundreds of dollars to millions of dollars depending upon a district's size. The money saved could be plowed back into classrooms for instructional materials or teachers.
The purpose of the interim study is to determine what statutory or regulatory barriers might become a barrier to what seems to be a common-sense next step toward energy independence and sustainability. Lawmakers should be able to move to remove those barriers once they are identified.
Sure there will be naysayers — most likely those who want to protect their turf, cling to the past and an unsustainable business model that spoils the environment at the expense of others and then leave. Those naysayers also might tout the low costs of electricity generated by natural gas or coal and compare that to the costs of installing new solar technology.
They also will fail to include in the prices they cite are the costs associated with the damage caused by hydraulic fracturing of geologic formations where oil and gas is found or the injection of "produced water" and unidentified substances into the earth that increase seismic activity. They also won't mention the costs resulting from the methane gas that spews into the air during the production and processing of these fossil fuels.
Solar-powered schools will not only save money that can be redirected and repurposed for providing a quality education for the next generation of Oklahomans, they will stand as examples of innovation. The adoption of sustainable practices is viewed more than ever as a sign of progress, and this policy would be a way for the state to distinguish its brand for the future.
We applaud Boren for her forward-thinking proposal and look forward to what this interim study produces.