Bringing Solar and STEM Education to North Carolina Schools

By Jonathan Susser | February 24, 2020

Formed by Advanced Energy in 2003, NC GreenPower is a nonprofit whose mission is to expand public knowledge and acceptance of cleaner energy technologies to all North Carolinians through local, community-based initiatives.

In April 2015, NC GreenPower launched a new pilot program. Solar Schools offered grants for the installation of small photovoltaic (PV) arrays at schools, providing clean, green, renewable energy across our state. In October 2019, the pilot was approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission as a full-scale program and was rebranded as Solar+ Schools.

Thanks to donor contributions, NC GreenPower has been able to help fund solar installations at 32 K-12 schools in 27 counties through its Solar+ Schools program to date, bringing renewable energy and STEM education to more than 26,000 students.

Here’s how the program works:

  1. At the beginning of each year, schools apply to the program on NC GreenPower’s website.
    1. All North Carolina K-12 schools are eligible and encouraged to apply, but preference may be given to those in economically distressed counties.
  2. Each spring, NC GreenPower’s review committee evaluates applications and selects schools for the grant.
  3. Schools that are chosen receive up to $14,000 that goes toward installation costs, and they are then tasked with raising a fixed amount of supplemental funds: $6,000, $9,000 or $12,000.
    1. NC GreenPower also partners with the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) Foundation, which offers up to $20,000 in additional funding for selected public schools.
  4. The schools use NC GreenPower’s fundraising website to raise money for their portion of the project. NC GreenPower complements these efforts with marketing and social media promotion.
  5. After the money is raised, NC GreenPower coordinates with local installers and manages the installation of the PV systems.
  6. NC GreenPower also provides educational materials to the schools from the National Energy Education Development Project, such as a STEM curriculum and lesson plans, as well as a six-hour training session for teachers.
  7. Once each solar array is installed, NC GreenPower hosts a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony at that school for donors, teachers, staff, students and the local community.

Click here to learn more about Solar+ Schools, and if you’re interested in donating to support the program, click here.