How to go solar: Group forming solar co-ops in Florida

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, August 22, 2016, 6:14 PM EDT

Hundreds of Orange County neighbors are going solar together in the hopes of getting a discount. They joined the Orange County Solar Co-Op, and the group is trying to get more residents to sign up.

  • Group hosting meetings on solar co-ops
  • Neighbors get together to buy solar, and businesses offer installation discounts
  • Florida Solar United Neighborhoods want 500 homeowners to sign up in Orange County

“Once you pay off your system, then you are just generating free electricity for the rest of the life of the system," said Florida Solar United Neighborhoods Chief of Staff Emily Stiever.

The power of the sun is compelling Corrin Beckert to go solar to save some green.

“[I paid] $275 the past month,” Beckert said. “It will be more than that the next bill. Next summer, it will be more than that. I can’t afford to pay the electric bill. I’m a senior citizen. I have only social security for income. I need solar panels."

Organizers with the non-profit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods said with the co-op discount of up to 20 percent and a federal tax credit of 30 percent, solar is becoming a more affordable alternative source of power.

“One of the myths we helped dispel is that solar is still super expensive. The cost of solar has come down almost 80 percent in the last 10 years," Stiever said.

Dozens of interested homeowners attended Orange County Solar Co-op informational meeting at Orange County Government building Monday afternoon.

“That’s why I’m here, to join the solar co-op, to see if we can get a better price and how I can use it, and at what point it will become efficient for me to pay it off and then have zero electric bill," Beckert said.

Sample costs provided by FLSUN estimate solar panel system will pay for themselves in about five to 15 years.

“If everybody had enough money, they would be doing it. If it were cheaper they would be doing it, so we need to make it cheaper, more accessible so everybody can have solar panels," Beckert said.

So far, more than 125 people have signed up for the Orange County Solar Co-op.

The goal is to have 500 or more homeowners join by the end of November.

Several more Solar Co-op meetings are being held across Orange County this week.

  • Monday
    Orange County Agricultural Extension Center, Azalea Room
    6021 South Conway Road, Orlando
    6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday
    Orange County Environmental Protection Division
    3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200, Panther Training Room
    11:30 a.m.
  • Meadow Park Recreation Center
    1751 Rhode Island Woods Circle, Champion Room B, Orlando
    6 p.m.
  • Wednesday
    Orange County IOC I Building
    450 East South Street, Largo Training Room, Orlando
    11:30 a.m.
  • First Unitarian Church
    1901 East Robinson Street, Orlando
    5:30 p.m.

A Brevard County-based co-op is also holding a meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Cocoa at the Florida Solar Energy Center on Clearlake Road.

Co-ops are also being formed in St. Petersburg and Sarasota.