Central Cambria School District discusses ‘going solar’ during tour with Fiedler, labor leaders

EBENSBURG, March 14 – Yesterday, state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., and labor leaders toured Central Cambria School District and spoke about potentially installing solar panels. Owning a solar array could save the district money on dramatically rising energy costs.

Fiedler introduced state Solar for Schools legislation in May to help districts fund the construction and maintenance of solar panels. Visitors heard from district officials about their financial challenges and how solar projects have cost similar school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Dr. Jason Moore, superintendent of the Central Cambria School District, said owning a solar array would benefit the district financially, allowing them to eschew volatile market-price energy in favor of cheap renewables.

“The work our teachers and staff do each day to support kids and families is only possible with adequate funding,” Moore said. “But in the last school year, our electric bills alone totaled over $540K, an amount that equates to roughly seven teachers’ salaries and benefits. I’d love to know our school can generate its own electricity and not have to worry about that number each month. With the help of Solar for Schools, we could!”

Also on the tour were labor leaders, school board members and faith groups, including: Sarah Hammond, legislative director of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Alexander Tomasko, organizing specialist of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Kris Anderson, international representative for IBEW’s third district; Tim Telenko, business manager for LIUNA Local 910; Kevin Busher, chief advocacy officer for the Pennsylvania School Board Association; Kim Anderson, director of member mobilization for the Evangelical Environmental Network; Katie Blume, legislative director of Conservation Voters of PA; and Doug Neidich, CEO of Greenworks Development.

Sarah Hammond of the Pa. AFL-CIO praised the legislation, citing its potential to create good-paying jobs in school communities.

“Solar for Schools would create jobs in a fast-growing industry, and union members are ready to do them,” Hammond said. “On behalf of hundreds of thousands of workers in the Pa. AFL-CIO, we encourage the Senate to pass the bill so our members can get to work!”

“The implementation of solar technology at schools is exciting, and has the potential to create hands-on training for the next generation of workers,” Kris Anderson said. “With high tech training centers and the highest skilled workforce, the IBEW stands ready to get the job done safely and responsibly.”

Fiedler’s Solar for Schools is groundbreaking legislation that would create a grant program to fund solar energy projects at public k-12 schools, community colleges, and career and technical schools, while jumpstarting Pennsylvania’s renewable energy production and creating family-sustaining jobs. It passed the House with bipartisan support in June.

The bill is championed by an unprecedented “blue-green” coalition of labor, education, environmental and industry groups, thanks to its potential to help Pennsylvania meet climate goals, strengthen the labor movement, and provide a tool to tackle the school funding crisis at once.

Fiedler said she was excited about Central Cambria’s interest in using the program to install solar panels on school grounds and called the district an ideal candidate for solar adoption.

“When schools generate their own energy, power is literally placed back in the hands of staff, teachers and students,” Fiedler said. “Without the burden of high, unpredictable energy costs, schools like Central Cambria could focus on funding what matters most: a quality education for our children.”

Fiedler will join local leaders to tour Moon Area School District in Allegheny County on March 14 and West Greene School District in Greene County on March 21. Both districts are interested in constructing solar arrays on school grounds.

These visits follow a previous tour of Pennsylvania schools interested in solar energy in 2023.