Over the past few years, the terms 'crowdfunding' or 'kickstarting' have taken off, much like the projects or startup companies that the fundraising campaigns are helping reach fruition. Now a somewhat unlikely organization has jumped into the fray, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is aiming to install solar on schools as soon as January 2014 through a new Indiegogo campaign.
The campaign seeks to raise $54,000, which will help three to five schools buy and install solar installations. “Our ultimate goal is help every school that wants solar power to get it,” said NRDC Renewable Energy Policy Director Nathanael Greene. “If we can hold fundraisers for field trips and sports teams, we can do the same to get our schools on solar.” He added that switching to solar power helps schools cut their energy costs and allows them to use those funds for other purposes while also reducing the environmental impact of energy use.
NRDC used California’s Firebaugh-Las Deltas United School District as an example. After going solar, the district was able to save roughly $900,000 allowing them to reinstate a music program for 2,300 students. It said students at solar schools also get a chance to see how solar energy works, which can help enrich their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
“Numerous organizations and programs—mainly through utilities—are putting solar panels on schools,” said Jay Orfield, environmental innovation fellow in NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation. Another company, Mosaic, has also launched crowdfunding campaigns to support solar on schools, community centers and others. However, investments in Mosaic’s projects promise a return on investment over time, akin to a bond. Under the Indiegogo campaign, people can contribute as little as $10 to help a school go solar.
“What’s different about our program is that it aims to make solar an option for any school, anywhere, by beginning with local school administrators, parents, teachers, students and communities and giving them the tools to they need to make solar power a reality,” he said.
The campaign will also include a Solar Schools website that will help potential beneficiary schools apply to the program and for contributors to vote to select a school to go solar. The site, which isn’t up yet, will detail state and local rules about installing solar power in a given community. It will also help connect interested parties with solar installers, and local solar organizations.
Other organizations, including The Solar Foundation, Community Power Network, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (Solar 4R Schools), The Green School Alliance and Three Birds Foundation are partnering with NRDC on the campaign.
While it's NRDC’s first crowdfunding campaign, it is far from NRDC’s first efforts to promote solar. In the past, the organization has worked with professional sports and collegiate stadium owners to develop a guidebook to help them go solar. It’s helped stadiums like the Qwest Field and Event Center in Seattle and Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. go solar.