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Rooftop solar can help schools cut pollution, power bill: Study

India receives about 300 clear and sunny days in a year and a solar exposure of 5,000 trillion kilowatt-hours every year


Tapping solar energy can aid schools to reduce carbon footprint by 28 per cent and meet 75 per cent of their electricity needs, according to a new study.

Rooftop solar projects help in decreasing air pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain and further cause serious health consequences including heart attacks and poor lung function, noted the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. “This is an action we can take that benefits the environment and human health in a real, meaningful way,” Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, behavioural scientist at the Stanford University, said in a statement.

“Schools are paying for electricity anyway,” said Wong-Parodi, an assistant professor of Earth system science at Stanford. “This is a way, in some cases, that they can reduce their costs. If there’s a rebate or a subsidy, it can happen more quickly.” Schools in India can also tap the solar energy as the country receives about 300 clear and sunny days in a year and a solar exposure of 5,000 trillion kilowatt-hours every year.

A one kilowatt (kW) rooftop system can produce three to five units of electricity a day. Therefore, even a school with a 5 kW solar rooftop can easily save money by reducing its dependence on the power grid. The less you consume from the grid, the more you save on electricity bill, says Aditi Sharma, a deputy programme manager for environment education at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Indian schools are also eligible for a subsidy covering up to 30 per cent of the benchmark cost of a solar project.

But, in an audit conducted by the Green Schools Programme of the CSE, only 13 per cent of 1,700 schools in the country were found to operate on solar energy. While cost of rooftop solar systems may be hindering educational institutions from purchasing, the study showed it to be more beneficial even when factoring in typical costs for installation, maintenance, operation and routine hardware replacements.

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