Solar Campus Initiative (SCI), a national non-profit organization, is a project of Earth Island Institute. Formerly known as Solar College Initiative, SCI was founded with the mission of directly aiding the education sector as it moves towards a more sustainable energy future. SCI serves as both a liaison and a catalyst, to rapidly increase the number of solar photovoltaic systems installed on college, university, and K-12 campuses across the nation.
The SCI program enables an institution to expedite the process of implementing solar energy generation at their campus, by offering education-sector-specific services to both simplify the process and make it economically feasible. The SCI process helps to eliminate the most prevalent barriers to implementation of solar PV (photovoltaics), above all being cost.
From K-12 through higher education, the SCI Program places student engagement as a top priority, integrating every step of the development and installation process with the learning objectives of the institution, providing a rare opportunity for students to have direct exposure to the most promising renewable energy technology of their generation - solar PV.
Over 4,300 college and university campuses in the United States consume approximately 5% of all electricity generated in the U.S., as they operate central plants, dormitories, science centers, sports stadiums and other facilities. The majority of this power is generated by burning fossil fuels. A switch to renewable energy by these institutions, and those at the K-12 level, has the potential to eliminate millions of pounds of carbon from entering our atmosphere. While some institutions have invested aggressively in renewable energy and other sustainability measures, many more have been stymied by economic constraints, regulatory barriers, and institutional limitations.
Primary barriers to implementation of solar PV by institutions:
- Lack of understanding and/or support amongst institutional leadership;
- Lack of time, resources, and personnel to dedicate to project development;
- Significant upfront investment costs.
Benefits to Installing Solar PV on Campus
As challenging as the above barriers are to overcome, colleges, universities, and K-12 institutions are increasingly seeking ways around them, as they recognize that renewable energy on campus can yield tremendous financial and social benefits:
- College, university, and K-12 business officers face the difficult task of estimating energy demand and cost each year. Solar PV can offer a fixed cost for electricity for 15-20 years -- Institutions employing third-party financing mechanisms see immediate gains in cash flow because there is no up-front investment, and the solar energy price is (in most cases) set below the cost of grid power.
- The Princeton Review found that 66% of high school-age college applicants and parents surveyed said they considered an institution’s sustainability profile as part of their selection criteria.
- Solar PV installations provide visible evidence of an institution’s environmental commitment, and create green jobs in the institution’s community.