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School Board Members Call for Review of District Solar

By Emma Pabst
Environment Texas Associate

Last night myself and two of my brilliant interns attended Austin Independent School District’s monthly board meeting, where we called for solar on every school by 2025 (1).

Intern Bowen Wilder asks AISD to go solar

Several school board members requested reviews of district solar policies, including the 2013 bond money designated for solar energy and cost-savings analysis of solar installations.

We delivered a coalition letter signed by over 25 supporters including PTAs, environmental advocates, and community leaders, as well as more than 700 petition signatures, and photo petitions featuring bright smiles from over 200 solar supporters.

Me and our photo petition collage!

Our public comments detailed how solar schools can help protect our air quality and planet, teach students about the practical applications of science and technology, and shave money off of our energy bills to invest in teachers, technology, and textbooks.

At the conclusion of the public comment period, the board requested the following information:

  • Trustee Teich requested an update on the 2013 bond money and district solar initiatives

  • Trustee Mathias expressed interest in exploring the goal of solar on every school by 2025, as well as requesting an update on the 2013 bond money and the district’s current solar initiatives

  • Trustee Gordon request an update on the 2013 bond money

After three months of campaigning, my work is finally paying off. I’ve made countless phone calls, met one person after another for coffee (I always order hot chocolate), attended school-board candidate forums, meet and greets, and clean energy happy hours, petitioned in the rain -and subsequently hired two interns (2) - and thanks to all of that sleuthing, I’ve finally figured out what happened to the rest of the $10 million.

According to Matias Segura, the Director of Operations at AISD, of the $10 million earmarked for solar from the 2013 bond package, $6.2 million still remains. We’re glad it’s still around, and excited to use it for solar. Combined with generous incentives available from Austin Energy, as well as potential federal tax credits and grants from private foundations, AISD could become the first school district in Texas, maybe even the first in America, to have solar on every school.

Unfortunately, Matias also informed us that the district has no plans for future solar installations.

AISD has come long way since 2013, but we can always do more. If we hope to avert the worst impacts of global warming we need to heed the call of clean energy and start building a sustainable world.

We've talked to hundreds of people and the message is clear: Austin ISD can do better, go further, and put solar on every school in the district by 2025. I’m happy to live in a city that loves solar, and a country where I have the opportunity to do rad things like talk to our public officials. I have a voice, and I’m glad my representatives are listening.

(1) Yeah, yeah, not every roof can do the things. Sometimes trees happen, and we like those too! For schools with roofs unsuitable for solar we suggest solar learning centers.

(2) Shout out to my wonderful Clean Energy Team for braving the elements and the school system with me!