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New Energy Program Supports School Districts

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The Solar for Schools program will reduce electricity costs through solar installation

 

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH —Cuyahoga County announces a new program to provide financial support to five Northeast Ohio school districts for solar installation. The Solar for Schools program aims to reduce electricity costs and regional greenhouse gas emissions while increasing equitable access to clean, local, renewable energy and providing educational opportunities for K-12 students.

 

The Solar for Schools program is made possible through a partnership between the County utility, Cuyahoga Green Energy, and the community financial institution, Growth Opportunity Partners (Growth Opps). The County will subaward Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant funds in the amount of $95K to school districts to offset the costs of solar installations. The Growth Opportunity Partners forgivable loan program will further alleviate the financial burden for the districts through forgivable loans of $50K per district. The school districts will own the solar systems and, as nonprofit entities, are now eligible to take advantage of the solar investment tax credits established through the Inflation Reduction Act’s Elective Pay Option. 

 

The school districts participating in the first phase of the program include East Cleveland City School District, Maple Heights City School District, Euclid City School District, and the Cuyahoga Heights City School District. A fifth school district will be announced soon. The Solar for Schools program will grow and extend into the future through partnerships with Solar United Neighbors, the Ohio Schools Council, and additional participating school districts. Our goal is to build capacity for widespread adoption of solar by schools, paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future. 

 

“The Solar for Schools program exemplifies Cuyahoga County’s strategic focus on increasing renewable energy resources and building community resilience,” said County Executive Chris Ronayne. “This effort benefits our schools and communities by providing pathways to healthier, more eco-friendly power solutions while reducing costs for school districts.”

 

“The first African American-led Green Bank in the nation, Growth Opps and GO Green Energy Fund are thrilled to partner with Cuyahoga County under the innovative and inclusive leadership of County Executive Chris Ronayne,” said Michael Jeans, President and CEO of Growth Opps. “We are honored to make this early commitment of $250K, of what is intended to be non-repayment capital to these participating schools, to help improve air quality through solar, where students and teachers spend many of their waking hours.”

 

“The installation of solar energy in schools provides a hands-on educational tool for students while promoting environmental stewardship for generations to come,” said Jenita McGowan, Cuyahoga County’s Chief of Climate and Sustainability. “I am grateful for the support of our partners at Growth Opps and look forward to seeing this program expand throughout the County and Northeast Ohio.”

 

The Solar for Schools program will provide additional benefits to the home communities of participating school districts. Communities are projected to see decreased energy and environmental burdens, as well as increases in job quality, clean energy enterprise creation, and clean energy jobs and technology.

To learn about our Cuyahoga County Climate and Sustainability programs, visit cuyahogacounty.gov/sustainability.


About Growth Opportunity Partners

 

Growth Opportunity Partners (Growth Opps) is a mission-based community financial institution and Green Bank dedicated to providing community development capital, services, and solutions to growing small businesses, primarily located in disadvantaged, low and moderate income (LMI) communities. Recognizing that capital markets have historically failed to reach low-income and communities of color in the same manner as others, Growth Opps was created to make capital, professional high quality advisory services, and information accessible. The organization bridges the gap between opportunity and access, ensuring that all communities have the resources they need to thrive.

 

About Cuyahoga County

 

Cuyahoga County is the geographic and economic core of the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan Area, and, with over 1.2 million residents, it is the second most-populous county in the State of Ohio. The County promotes regional growth, economic opportunity, individual well-being, regional collaboration, and superior services.

 

With the creation of its Department of Sustainability in 2015, Cuyahoga County has worked effectively to implement climate mitigation and climate adaptation strategies. In 2018, Cuyahoga County implemented a four-megawatt solar installation on a closed landfill in Brooklyn, Ohio – the first project of its kind in the State of Ohio. Since then, the County has installed solar on four of its own buildings, has enabled the installation of municipal solar arrays in two first ring suburbs, and has partnered with nonprofit solar advocacy organization Solar United Neighbors to administer a successful residential solar buying co-op. In 2021, Cuyahoga County created its own County utility authority, with a goal of developing resilient renewable energy microgrids throughout the region.

 

With the understanding that poor and underserved communities are most impacted by climate change, Cuyahoga County regularly works with community groups and vulnerable populations. In developing its Climate Action plan, the County created its Climate Vulnerability Map, which is used to make resource allocation decisions for programs such as the Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Program and the Plastic Bag Reduction Grant Program.