AUSTIN (KXAN) — If your child is going to a school in the Austin metro, their campus may be generating power for your home. A new report published by the nonprofit Generation 180 found schools in the Austin metro are using more solar power than all other Texas school districts combined.

Schools in the state are in general lagging behind. About 8,409 K-12 schools in the United States use solar power, either through their own generation or by opting to use solar power through their local utility. Only 139 of those schools are in Texas. Seventy-two of which are in Central Texas.

This is according the 2022 Brighter Future report published by Generation 180 earlier this month. The report, published every two years, tracks the usage of solar power and green initiatives in school districts. Since they began reporting in 2015, the usage of solar has tripled in school districts.

Over the past year, Texas schools generated 12,399kW of solar power. California schools, which topped the list, generated 703,507kW of power.

“We’re finding schools across the country in all settings going solar. schools in rural areas and urban areas, large school districts, small school districts,” said Tish Tablan, the author of the report. “I was surprised to see that nearly half of the public schools with solar in the country are serving low-income students.”

Fifty-two schools in the Austin metro use solar power.

Austin ISD and solar panel usage

The Austin Independent School District first installed ground mounted solar arrays in 2002. “They are producers, but they’re also great for demonstration projects,” said AISD’s Director of Sustainability Darien Clary.

Starting in 2012, the district began installing solar panels on the rooftops of its schools. “We have 14 facilities with rooftop panels — 13 our schools and one is the Performing Arts Center. Together, those produce about two megawatts of energy.”

That is enough to power 230 homes. The district still has to pull the majority of its power from the grid, but having the solar panels isn’t just about generating power.

“We want our schools to be tools for learning. We want our facilities to not just be a facility but to teach also and be something that teachers can tap into without having to take a field trip and go off site.”

A ground mounted solar array at Webb Middle School generates power, but is also used as a teaching tool. (Courtesy: KXAN/Eric Henrikson)
A ground mounted solar array at Webb Middle School generates power but is also used as a teaching tool. (Courtesy: KXAN/Eric Henrikson)

Clary said the district hopes to install more solar panels in the future. “Right now, every new school we build is solar ready. So that means that we look for an expansive roof that is good for production, it’s oriented towards the sunlight, so we’ll get good production out of it.”

The district is also reducing solar consumption. New facilities come with energy efficient HVAC systems and LED lights.

“The district has a lot of motivations, given how big we are and how many facilities we have, how much power we consume. But then also our position as an educator. So sustainability is all about the future and so is education.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, AISD purchases more green energy than almost any other school district in the nation. Only one other purchases more than AISD.

You can read the full 2022 Brighter Future Report below to learn more about Generation 180’s findings.