It's the most wonderful time of the year—the General Assembly is underway in Virginia! This year we can help bring solar energy to Virginia schools by supporting Senator Favola's bill for solar-ready rooftops.
Ipsun is in full support of SB290 (Senator Favola) and companion bill HB471 (Delegate Subramanyam), and we hope you'll join us. You can scroll down to contact your legislators now, or read on for more info.
SB290 and HB471 ensure that making roofs solar-ready becomes part of the planning process for new public buildings and those undergoing major renovation. For schools, SB290 and HB471 go a step further to ensure they are designed and constructed to produce as much energy as they consume.
The bill also includes energy efficiency measures and electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new construction. Creating rules for new buildings and renovations, especially schools, to have net-zero capability with roofs prepared for solar is a sensible, cost-saving measure that has long-term positive effects for our kids.
The Health Benefits
It's not hard to imagine the many ways that a net-zero school can benefit our kids. Just a few include saving money on utility bills to spend on supporting education, better indoor air quality, and the educational opportunities that arise from a building that displays these technologies.
Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, VA, is a net-zero school making a difference in kids lives
The health benefits of net-zero schools are becoming clearer as more schools implement these measures. Studies show that net-zero schools are healthier for students, leading to fewer student absences and higher academic achievement.
In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. students miss approximately 14 million school days per year because of asthma or other respiratory issues related to poor indoor air quality. Improving indoor air quality alone can prevent more than 65 percent of asthma cases among elementary school-age children. Net-zero buildings powered by solar can achieve this goal.
The Cost-Saving Benefits
Operating costs can be a significant component of school budgets, with energy costs contributing heavily at about $300 per student, per year. A study conducted for Fairfax County Public Schools concluded that building a school to net-zero added just 6 percent to construction costs, an amount that could be recovered in 10 years. Renovating an existing school to net-zero added 11 percent, which could be recovered in 15 years.
Fairfax County is also proof of the need for these energy savings. Page 69 of the County’s 2023 budget projects a $1.4 million, or 5.1 percent, increase in its schools' spending “due to a projected increase in electricity rates charged by Dominion Energy Virginia.” Schools across Virginia similarly face high energy burdens that make net zero schools a wise investment.
Virginia is currently directing hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools for renovations. SB290 and HB471 will ensure students, families, and taxpayers get the greatest possible benefit from this spending.
Take Action NowOur friends at Virginia Grassroots have put together a great email tool for both bills. You can use their one click tool, or copy paste from the links below to email all of the members of the committees that are voting on the bills next week. They've included a sample email you can send, and you can also customize it with your own message about the importance of net-zero buildings and solar on our schools.
- Use this link to email the Senators on the Commerce and Labor Commmittee to support SB290
- Use this link to email the Delegates on the House General Laws Committee to support HB471.
Thanks for taking action on this important issue! Let's make it a habit to reach out early and often to our legislators during this General Assembly and let them know we've got their backs when they support a renewable energy future.
Please reach out to us any time with questions or if you're looking for a way to get more involved. We've got lobby days coming up and we always love it when solar owners join us to tell their stories. Thanks, fam--you're the best!
 https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/pdf/FY-2023-Proposed-Budget.pdf at page 69.
Reference is pg44 of https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/Net-Zero-Energy-Study.pdf