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Neighbors Banding Together With Solar to Control Power Bills

Drone footage and local interviews of solar homeowners and volunteer organizers available to interested media.

Orlando, Fla. – Florida has taken the lead in both residential and utility solar. All across the state neighbors are banding together to bundle their buying power and use their roofs to save money and reduce their utility bills.

Solar co-ops have helped propel the state into a leading position for rooftop solar, with the state leading the nation with a 110% growth rate in residential rooftop solar permits. The co-ops help by bundling consumer buying power and bringing discounts, as well as easy to understand information about how solar can help homeowners save money.

Solar United Neighbors, a non-profit based in Washington D.C., working with their partner the League of Women Voters of Florida, has launched 34 solar co-ops around the state, with many more planned or in process for 2018. Currently there are active co-ops in Orange County, St. Petersburg, Miami-Dade, Highland, Citrus, Franklin, Bay, and Sarasota counties,as well as the Upper Keys. In the past two years, the co-ops have accounted for 10% of all new residential solar in the state.

The co-ops are installing their 1,000th home this summer, using local solar installers from around the state. In just over two years the co-ops have invested almost $10 million in rooftop solar, added 267 jobs, and helped Florida consumers save millions.

Now growing by $1 million a month for rooftop solar, co-op participants all across Florida are jumping on board. “The best part was that by working with the co-op, it was really easy,” said Charlie Behrens, a co-op participant from Orlando. “The last time I went solar, I had to do all of the legwork myself. This meant vetting the installers, researching different hardware, figuring out endless financial permutations and lots of cold-feet second-guessing. This year when we wanted to add panels via the co-op, we had a good clear decision within a day, and at a lower price than we could ever get as just one rooftop.”

Co-op participants work together and with the support of Solar United Neighbors to learn about solar. They form a bulk purchase group that selects one installer through an open bidding process. Participants select the installer whose proposal best serves the needs of the group. The selected installer then develops personalized proposals for each homeowner. Participants then decide if going solar is right for them. The co-ops are free to join and there is no obligation to proceed or purchase a solar system.

Experts say Florida should be one of the top three states in the country for rooftop solar due to days of sunshine and high electric bills stemming from almost year-round use of air conditioning.

“Rooftop solar is one of the very best investments a homeowner in Florida can make,” said Dr. Jim Fenton, Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center at University of Central Florida. “Depending on some variables such as roof orientation, utility, etc., homeowners can expect almost a 14% return per year.”

To help spread the word, the League has released a Sun$ense video campaign to help educate the Florida public. The videos are free to use in their entirety or for b-roll and sound bites.

“Standing room only at our public meetings around the state from cities to small towns showed us that the time was right to use this fun social media device to expand awareness,” said League president Patricia Brigham.

The results speak for themselves. Angela DeMonbreun, state director of Solar United Neighbors, says the neighborhood co-ops contributed nearly 10% of all new residential rooftop solar in Florida in 2017, and is the largest and fastest growing marketplace for Solar United Neighbors, which introduces solar co-ops in nine states.

Videos can be viewed on the League’s YouTube channel.

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