Solar Co-ops spurring solar electricity growth in Tampa Bay Area

Original Post: http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/solar-co-ops-spurring-solar-electricity-growth-in-tampa-bay-area 

 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –
Going green is getting easier thanks to new solar co-ops popping up across Florida, including here in the Tampa Bay Area.

The high upfront price of solar panels is usually the biggest inhibitor preventing homeowners from adding solar panels to their roofs, but the idea behind co-op trend is that it helps homeowners save thousands of dollars by bidding in bulk.

In St. Pete, dozens of residents united together and then negotiated a discount on their solar installations, which are happening right now. The St. Pete Co-op already made their purchases, but other similar co-ops are being developed right now in places like Sarasota, and another one could soon be coming to Hillsborough. Previous Co-ops were created in Broward County, and along the Space Coast.

“I thought this is a no-brainer, of course we need to do this,” explained Dr. Julie Kessel who was part of the St. Pete Co-op and had panels installed on Friday.

The negotiated bulk-price discount is believed to save some homeowners upwards of 15-20% off the cost, and when combined with a 30% federal tax credit, residents are able to save nearly half on the project. The owner of Brevard Solar, which was awarded the contract for the St. Pete Co-Op, tells ABC Action News that their customers usually break even within 5 years because of the savings to their electric bill, and then after that, they might not have an electrical bill at all.

“Prices have come down for a number of very good reasons,” explains Brevard Solar owner Jim Spann to ABC Action news. “The economy, the supply chain, and the interest the co-ops have provided in the state wide solar market for Florida.”

Spann says he does not charge people differently whether they are in a co-op or not, but does believe many people are more comfortable buying solar panels when they buy them together.

To help organize this trend is an organization called Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (FLSun.org), which helps coalesce residents into a co-op, and then helps the co-op recruit bids from solar company contractors, like Brevard Solar, which was awarded the contract for the St. Pete Co-Op. The winning bidder pays FL Sun per home recruited.