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  • Writer's pictureJ.D. Merrill

Leveraging school roofs to offset electricity costs for low-and-moderate income families

The benefits of solar energy have historically been reserved for wealthy individuals and institutions.

According to the US Department of Energy, low-income households across the United States represent just 15% of solar adopters since 2010, in part because 59% of low-income households are renters and cannot install solar on their rooftops.

With the passage of community solar legislation in Maryland, low- to moderate-income (“LMI”) households can now benefit from solar power to reduce both their energy burden and their carbon footprint.

Schools are in a unique position to leverage this moment. As trusted institutions with expansive roofs, schools can now add solar to their roofs and have the families enrolled in their school, and/or the neighbors around the school, benefit from the electricity generated on their school building.

When I worked as an Assistant Principal at Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School I worked with the Climate Access Fund to create the first of this type of partnership in the state of Maryland.

By this time next year, 175 families with students enrolled at Henderson-Hopkins will be saving money on their electricity bills because of the solar being generated on the school's roof. This project was featured in Bloomberg News and you can learn more about it here.

Mangrove Strategies is now helping the Climate Access Fund identify other schools interested in this type of partnership.

Here’s how it works:

  • We determine if your site is a good fit based on roof size and condition for rooftop solar, availability of parking lots for solar canopies, and/or availability of land for ground-mounted solar panels;

  • The Climate Access Fund leases the space from the school and solar panels are installed at no cost to the school;

  • The Climate Access Fund helps low and moderate income (LMI) families subscribe to receive energy savings directly from the project using community solar; and

  • The school benefits by directly using some of the solar power for school operations, helping save money for families enrolled at the school, receiving a small annual lease payment, or investing directly in the project and earning returns over time.

If you know of a school that might be a good fit for this project, send me a note at and I'd love to be in touch.

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