Lawmaker, superintendent call for Pennsylvania schools to go solar – ABC27

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(WHTM)– The sun didn’t shine much Thursday but several PA schools saved money anyway because of their solar panels, and there’s a push to use state money to help more schools install them and reap the benefits.

“It is absolutely fantastic,” Carlisle Superintendent Colleen Friend said. She beams about the solar panels installed more than a decade ago.

“It’s fantastic for our buildings that we are 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 and we incorporate it into our science classrooms,” Friend said. She also says district wide energy bills are cut 14%. But…

“This building, Bel Air Elementary School, is completely run off the solar panels,” Friend said. “So I mean that the economic savings to the district is incredible.”

The installation then cost $5 million. A federal grant paid half. Carlisle paid half. But a solar for schools bill would use state dollars to help schools pick up their half. Federal money is still there for the taking.

“There are tremendous dollars available from Washington that we could bring back to Pennsylvania and combine it with the state appropriation, we can help a lot of schools get over the finish line and install the solar panels and then they can generate their own electricity and save on their utility bills,” State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler said.

It had bipartisan support in the House. Has yet to move in the Senate. A requirement to use prevailing wage labor could be a snag says PA Building Trades Mike Ford.

“Well, they don’t want to use you in union labor,” Ford said. “They want, you know, to serve it out to the lowest possible bidder.”

Fiedler is optimistic those labor pains will get worked out. Also to be determined is how much state money. She initially wanted $500 million, a million per district. While she’ll settle for less she reminds lawmakers those state dollars will help schools save their own cash.

“I have yet to hear of a school district or a school official who says, no, I don’t need millions of dollars to reinvest like I’m good,” Fiedler said. “Schools right now are facing really hard times, and this is a great way to help schools be self-sufficient.”

The bill actually passed the House before last year’s budget. Fiedler is hoping it gets through the Senate in time for this year’s budget, which is rapidly approaching

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