Renewable Energy Education: Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  I am looking to install a renewable energy generation system at my residence/business in an effort to “green” my home/business and/or save money on utility bills.  Does BEF provide funding for these sorts of projects?

A: No, BEF does not fund any type of residential or personal project.  BEF is a nonprofit organization whose mission in providing grant funding is to increase public awareness and knowledge of renewable energy technology in order to catalyze its widespread adoption at a grassroots level.  As such, we only fund projects with a strong educational and/or community outreach component. 

However, there are outside resources that can provide assistance to residential homeowners. For information about incentives that may be available for your home, check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

If you live in the Northwest and the technology you are installing is solar electric, you may be able to join the Northwest Solar Coop to generate income from the sale of your excess power. Or if you are interested in small-scale residential wind power, Northwest SEED may have useful resources for finding a local wind cooperative. 

Q: Does BEF provide funding for the research and development of new renewable energy technologies?

A: No, BEF does not provide funds for any type of project in the research and development phase.   While such projects could potentially have widespread public benefit and educational value, BEF is not a research institution, and as such does not have the resources to evaluate the feasibility of new technology development.

Q: My school/organization is not located in the region of any of the utilities listed on the Funding Partners page of the BEF website and/or is not in the Northwest.  Can I still apply?

A: Yes.  BEF primarily funds projects in the Northwest because of established funding partner relationships in this region, but there are no geographical limitations for funding eligibility.

Q: How do I apply for my school or organization to join Solar 4R Schools?

A: All applications for Solar 4R Schools funding should be submitted via the appropriate application webform available in the Apply section of this website. You must first create a solar4rschools.org account before gaining access to the application webforms.

Q: If my school/organization is selected to receive a grant to host a photovoltaic project, what are our responsibilities?

A: While we certainly do not want to burden the school/organization with obligations, we do expect that if you are chosen to receive grant funding, you will:
•    Implement an education and/or public outreach strategy
•    Complete the deliverables proposed in the application and agreed upon in the host contract
•    Provide support throughout the installation
•    Agree to own and maintain the solar-electric system
•    Send annual reports to BEF regarding the status of the PV system and education program

Q: Are there any other potential costs to my school/organization and/or the facility owner?

A: BEF strives to fully fund projects so that no cash contributions are required of the host school/organization. The host facility will, in fact, save money on their electrical bills by generating electricity with the PV system. However, in the event of theft, damage, or vandalism, the school/organization is expected to cover the costs to repair or replace the PV system. We require the system to be covered under the school/organization’s all-risk insurance policy, but the cost of the system is usually much lower than the deductible.

Q: Why do schools need a solar electric array to teach about renewable energy?

A: These are hands-on projects that allow students to see and touch the technology and monitor its function. Furthermore, students are able to download live data from www.Solar4RSchools.org and learn about how to manipulate and graph this data.  BEF provides guides for classroom activities that tie the school’s  PV system to classroom instruction.  By using data generated directly from an on-site system rather than a remotely located system, concepts are imprinted more concretely.

Implementing these projects at schools educates teachers, facility personnel, school administrators, and other community members such as inspectors and permitting agencies, about what it takes to install a utility-interactive renewable energy system. This kind of learning only comes with the experience of installing an actual system.

Q: Will the presence of a PV system distract students and/or teachers from their regular educational obligations?

A: In reality, the PV system will sit there, produce a bit of electricity, and serve as a learning tool for the students. After some initial excitement around the opening event, there should not be any day-to-day distractions created by the system.

Q: Are Project Champions compensated for serving as such?

A: No. Project champions, by definition, are enthusiastic and have volunteered for the position. We have heard no reports of teachers requesting additional compensation. Generally, Project Champions consider the donation of equipment, labor, and educational materials to their schools ample compensation for their time.