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NYC Schools Going Solar “From the Outside In”

Want an in-depth look at how Solar One is working with the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability to solarize our public schools? Check out this article from Solstice.us that includes a great interview with Amy Colorado, the Green Design Lab’s Program manager fro K-12 Curriculum & Instruction.

“Learning about buildings and how buildings use energy – that’s what sustainability looks like in the city of New York,” Amy said. “I’m incredibly thankful to have entered Solar One to be able to teach environmentalism that is relevant to NYC and its residents.”

As the cost of solar continues to decline, more and more schools are installing solar panels or sourcing from offsite solar farms — and for good reason! What school wouldn’t want to save on its electric bills and put the money toward its programming and teachers instead?

While it’s great that schools are going green on the outside, it’s important that the lessons they teach students on the inside reflect those values, too.

Through an integrated approach to environmental education, New York City public schools are making the most out of their transition to solar. The NYC Solar Schools program, spearheaded by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability, enables viable NYC public schools to put solar panels on their roofs and help the City achieve its climate goals.

The crux of the school system’s integrated solarization movement stems from a larger commitment: the City’s ambitious, groundbreaking climate goals, which include creating a completely carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Seeing that 71% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, it was clear that the City had to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings and make the switch to clean energy.

To date, the NYC Solar Schools program has completed solar installation on more than 50 school rooftops – with over 200 others in the pipeline! The 50 existing solar school projects, combined with 20 more already in construction, and those in the pipeline will total 46 MW of installed solar, a significant contribution toward the City’s goal of installing 100 MW on city-owned buildings by 2025. What’s more, some of these projects will also include battery storage, ensuring schools will not have to go without power in the event of a blackout.

Amy Colorado, the Program Manager for K-12 Curriculum and Instruction at Solar One, has been passionate about the environment and climate change mitigation ever since she first heard about it in grade school.

At a young age, she didn’t quite feel like she was getting the in-depth environmental education she craved: one that taught about environmental justice, the NYC environmental movement, and energy solutions.

Amy’s unsatisfactory environmental education spawned a passion for educating students about their direct impact on the environment and their community.

In managing the Solar One K-12 Curriculum, Amy integrates solar installation, energy conservation, environmental justice, and how New Yorkers can work together to improve the air they breathe.

A direct partner of the NYC DOE, the Solar One K-12 curriculum is tailored to the schools benefiting from solar and is reflective of the individual school buildings and school solar installations.

“We have students do a math activity where they calculate the area of their own school roof and determine if the roof is suitable for solar,” Amy said. “The NYC DOE has access to some really great resources. Middle school and high school students were able to download data about how much electricity their school was using.”

Plus, by partnering with hundreds of schools in NYC, Solar One’s K-12 curriculum introduces students to good-paying green jobs and careers. “We were completing energy audits in the classroom,  teaching them how to measure energy usage, which is a great career skill and another job that’s very much in demand.”

You can read more about the NYC Solar Schools Program on the Solstice.us website here.