‘It takes us to a new level:’ School officials back Pa. bill to fund solar energy in districts – WPMT FOX 43

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A state lawmaker from Philadelphia is touting one Cumberland County school district’s savings following a powerful project.

CARLISLE, Pa. — They’re soaking up the sun and powering education in Cumberland County.

Carlisle Area School District completed a $2 million project more than a decade ago, filling the fields near Wilson Middle and Bellaire Elementary with hundreds of solar panels.

“It’s fantastic for our buildings that we’re using our own energy that we’re creating in Carlisle and it’s fantastic for our kids because it’s a learning tool that they see every single day,” said Dr. Colleen Friend, superintendent of schools.

The Carlisle Area School District installed these solar panels in 2010 and 2011. Since then, it’s reported savings of about 14% in electricity costs.

“Bellaire Elementary School is completely run off the solar panels,” Friend said. “The economic savings to the district is incredible.”

If the schools don’t use the energy from the array, the district can sell it. 

Democratic Representative Elizabeth Fiedler believes the technology could save Pennsylvania schools millions. 

She sponsored a bill that passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last year to create a grant program that would help districts pay for their own, through a state investment of $50 million to $100 million.

“Solar 4 Schools helps schools save tremendous amounts of money by installing solar panels either on the roof of the ground and then the local school gets to decide how to reinvest those dollars,” said Fiedler, a state representative from Philadelphia.

“I really think that it takes us to a new level,” Friend added. “I think the technology since we put this in is even better.”

Fiedler said federal dollars could also help schools cover 30% to 50% of the initial cost, bringing federal tax dollars back to Pennsylvania.

She said the bill has bipartisan support, but it would need to pass the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate as budget talks ramp up.

“We will see what happens,” Fiedler said. “I remain positive about it.”

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