Could community solar help fund local public schools?

photo of dollar bills meant to symbolize major investments in community solar developments across the nation

Public school enrollment is predicted to decline in most states, including Indiana, over the next decade. Many school districts also are facing a fiscal cliff caused by the coming end of pandemic-related federal funding.

Long story short: Public schools may need more money.

Could small, localized community solar projects be a potential budget solution? Check out what’s been going on the past couple years in Colorado:

In 2022, Pivot Energy completed a total of seven community solar projects in Weld, Logan and Crowley counties. These projects, which have a cumulative generating capacity of 13 megawatts, signed up more than 1,700 households and businesses as subscribers. At the same time, the Weld RE-5J School District signed up as a subscriber, which is expected to save the district almost $400,000 in utility expenses over 20 years. In Weld County alone, these community solar projects are expected to generate $1.4 million in property taxes, most of which will go towards public education., May 2024, “Community solar projects are surging as consumers seek more choice, competition on the power grid”

To be clear, we don’t know what the local fiscal impact of community solar projects would be in Indiana because we don’t currently have a law in place that allows for them to be built, but it’s possible that independent community solar projects could play a pivotal role in local economies by enhancing the property tax base, thereby providing a much-needed financial boost to struggling public schools.

As these projects are developed, they could also lead to significant capital investments in the local area. These investments not only increase the value of the properties where the solar installations are sited but also potentially uplift the surrounding properties due to the added infrastructure and economic activity.

As property values rise, so does the property tax revenue, which is a crucial source of funding for local public schools. This infusion of funds can help schools address budget shortfalls, improve facilities, and enhance educational resources, directly benefiting students and the community at large.