OPS should invest in solar panels, avoid budget cuts


U.S. Army Corps Engineers Savannah District

Equipped with over 450 solar panels, Murray Elementary School in Fort Stewart, Ga., uses solar energy and a wind turbine to power the school making it environmentally friendly and cost efficient. The school is 83,000 square feet and accommodates up to 450 students in addition to staff.

The Orator Staff

Current proposed budget cuts shouldn’t be a thing. Cuts made to programs offered at schools and cutting teacher pay or benefit will make things worse, not better in the long run. The good news is there is a solution that will help the district not only be financially green, but environmentally green too.

Omaha Public Schools (OPS), the largest school district in Nebraska, is not fulfilling contracts of former teachers. Around 20 years ago, OPS messed up by investing in the wrong things that ended up biting them in the rear.

They went from being short $138 million in 2007 to short $771 million a decade later. The district owes this money as pension to previous teachers. In 2016, they took some benefits away from future teachers to fix the mess that left former educators with no pension.

This problem leaves teachers asking if their pensions are safe. If this isn’t resolved, teachers will be able to sue the district as their pension is part of their contracts. If this were to happen it would leave the district with no money, and would cause it to close and around 51,000 kids would be without a school district.

Solar energy is the cheapest energy source in the world. It’s cost effective and millions of Americans use it as a renewable resource. OPS should get on board as solar panels provide electricity 24/7 even with no sun.

Installing solar panels would not only save money, but it would also reduce the emission that is wasted every day.

Since the average American’s carbon footprint exceeds 20 tonnes (metric ton) and the US is the second largest electricity consuming country, installing solar panels would also help keep the Earth more sustainable.

Installing solar panels is economical. Don Preister, Bellevue City Council member, has 28 panels installed in his backyard, so he doesn’t have to pay any electricity bills and has a zero-carbon footprint.

Not only is Preister doing something positive for the environment, but he also gets credit back from Omaha Public Power District, meaning they end up paying him for having the panels. One can imagine how helpful that would be if panels were to be installed on OPS schools.

With around 5,500 schools using solar power in the US, it shows that having the panels and putting them in schools is very valuable. There are 1,946 schools in the state of California that use solar power and have programs and companies dedicated to help save money for these schools.

In Illinois, wind power is also being used by 337 schools.

Others may argue that they are too expensive to install and won’t save money, but they do. The national average to install them is $23,000, but for the higher end they go up to $40,000 per household. Due to the price many may ignore this as a solution, but using solar power will cut the monthly bills in half. In the long run, these panels would pay for themselves and then save the district additional money.

Other schools have installed solar panels and plan to save millions of dollars in utility bills in addition to making the community cleaner. If OPS started using the solar panels, budget cuts, that would negatively affect students and staff, wouldn’t need to be made. Using cost effective resources, OPS wouldn’t have to worry about the pension problem continuing forever.

It may be a high price tag to get it started, but the long term benefits far outweigh the short term arguments against them.