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RPS Launches Largest Solar Power System at any School Division in Virginia

Last Friday, in a press conference with Governor Ralph Northam, school officials, and partner solar companies, RPS celebrated the largest solar energy system at a K-12 school division in Virginia to date. 

“When we look at our future, we know that we need to develop our renewable energy sources and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “I’m proud of Richmond Public Schools for leading the way—you are setting a great example for other schools, and for your students.” 

Richmond City School Board Representative, Liz Doerr, credited teachers and students from J.B. Fisher Elementary School for being the inspiration behind the project and invited some of the students on-stage to talk about their own solar projects.

My science project was inspired by solar energy,” said June Boehm, a fourth-grade student at J.B. Fisher Elementary School. “We built solar houses and solar water bottles to find out which color attracted the most heat.”

With a total capacity of 2.9 megawatts installed on 10 campuses across the division, the schools’ solar panels will produce enough electricity to cover 24 percent of the ten campuses’ electricity needs and will save RPS approximately $2 million in utility power costs over the next 20 years.

The 10 schools include: 

  • Broad Rock Elementary School

  • G.H. Reid Elementary School

  • Huguenot High School

  • J.B. Fisher Elementary School

  • J.H. Blackwell Elementary School

  • Linwood Holton High School

  • Lucille M. Brown Middle School

  • M.J. Jones Elementary School

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

  • Oak Grove Elementary School

The decision to add solar power is an example of RPS’ commitment to becoming a ‘greener’ school division while offering students practical opportunities to learn about modern and sustainable energy sources and career opportunities. 

“RPS is a school division that recognizes the importance of protecting our planet. We believe in science and we are proud to be leaders in this area,” said Superintendent Jason Kamras. “We will continue to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint while providing engaging learning opportunities for our students.”

The solar panel project was funded by a generous grant from the RVA Solar Fund, a component fund of the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, developed by Secure Futures Solar and is owned by Standard Solar.

Secure Futures Solar has already started to help the schools integrate the solar panels into classroom work through teacher training and SOL-compliant curricula from the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project. 

In addition, Secure Futures partnered with RPS launch a unique pilot program to give students hands-on experience with clean energy and citizen science, while bridging Virginia’s urban-rural divide. The pilot, Throwing Solar Shade, was held in the fall of 2019 and brought together students from Richmond’s Open High School with students from schools in Augusta County, under the guidance of Science Museum of Virginia Climatologist Dr. Jeremy Hoffman. Students researched the impact of solar panels on buildings and their impact on elevated surface temperatures in urban “heat islands,” areas of concrete or asphalt exposed to direct sunlight.

“RPS students had the greatest improvement in performance, an increase of 85% in a ten-week program,” said Secure Futures CEO Dr. Anthony Smith. “On-campus solar can offer opportunities for project-based learning where students can take data from solar panels and do truly impressive work.”

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About Secure Futures, LLC

As a market and policy leader, Secure Futures builds, owns, manages and funds affordable Resilient Solar Solutions® for hospitals, schools and businesses.  Headquartered in Staunton, Va., the company combines state-of–the-art solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial scale solar readily affordable in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, helping customers to realize the economic, environmental, and community benefits of solar energy.  In 2017, Secure Futures became a Certified B Corporation®, having met the exacting standards for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability established by the nonprofit B Lab®. For more information: www.securefutures.solar