Solar Co-Ops

By Diane Marks

 

Florida Solar United NeighborhoodsIn the League of Women Voters, we educate on an issue and come to a consensus for what we will advocate. The League came to a consensus in 1992 on climate change – it does exist and is one of the most important issues for the future of the world.

From that, it was concluded that solar energy was good and cut the carbon footprint of those who used it.  However, when the League advocated for solar energy, the Legislators were not interested in talking about it.

Deirdre Macnab, past President of the Florida League and current Vice President for Natural Resources, decided that the way to get Legislators interested in solar was to increase the number of homes in Florida with solar.  Florida has 19 million people.  We are the “Sunshine” state.  But we had only 9,000 homes with solar in 2014.  Florida is also one of only 4 states that does not allow solar customers to sell excess solar power to others.

So, Deirdre latched onto a Solar Co-op Project started in Orange County by a member of the Unitarian Universalist church and a League member.  They had partnered with an organization out of D.C., Community, Community Power Network (CPN), which had organized Solar Co-ops in D.C., MD, VA, WV and OH.  CPN filled in the gap of having all the technical knowledge about solar installation, financing and specifications.  In Florida, an employee of CPN was hired to help our Co-ops and they formed FLSUN.

When Deirdre took up the project, she offered it to all counties in Florida with Leagues.  Florida Solar Co-ops have been completed, or are being set up, in Alachua, Broward, Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Hillsboro, Pinellas, Space Coast, North Pinellas, and, now, Palm Beach County as of October, 2017.

What is a Solar Co-op?

A solar co-op is a group of homeowners interested in solar panels for electricity.  They learn at information meetings and sign-up for the co-op.  There is no financial obligation – they are just showing interest.

How does it work?

Homeowners attending information meetings can join the co-op or not.  Or, they can go on FLSUN.org or speak to anyone from the Steering Committee and sign up for the co-op.  Co-op members get bids from solar installers and select one installer for everyone in the co-op.  The chosen installer visits each member of the co-op to check their house and usage and give each member a customized proposal.  They can also discuss financing options.  Each member then has the decision to sign a contract or not.  Then everyone who signs a contract gets solar panels installed.

Why join a co-op?

By going solar with their neighbors, participants save up to 20% off the cost of a system and have the support of their neighbors.  FLSUN will handle and questions and problems so you are not reinventing the wheel or left out on a limb with an installer.

 

PBC’s Co-op

Palm Beach County will kick-off their Solar Co-op Project in early October.  The Steering Committee is currently

  • working on getting partners to join the Project
  • talking to politicians and community leaders to get their concept buy-in
  • working on places for the Kickoff and Information Meetings

 

Become involved

Anyone who would like to help is welcome.  Anyone who might like solar, please forward your name and email address to Diane Marks at dimarks@gate.net to be included in all mailings about the meetings.

We might be tilting at windmills on a lot of other environmental topics, but this is one thing we can really get done and help the environment.