Under a scorching August sun in St. Augustine on Tuesday, a local effort was launched to form a group designed to drive down the cost of installing solar panels for energy in residential homes.
“We want to jump start a transition from old, dangerous and dirty fossil fuels into clean energy right here on the First Coast and in St. Johns County,” said Warren Clark, co-founder of the St. Johns Solar Cooperative.
The cooperative is designed to get a collective group of residents together and then, as a group, seek contracts from solar energy companies for the installation of solar panels on homes. The cooperative held a news conference in front of St. Augustine City Hall to announce that it is an offshoot of the nonprofit group Florida Solar United Neighborhoods and the League of Women Voters of Florida.
The Solar United group has already formed a dozen similar organizations in Florida, with the closest to Northeast Florida in Alachua County.
Angela DeMonbreun is the senior program director for Solar United and said it intends to open more cooperatives throughout Northeast Florida, with Duval County targeted for early 2018.
“This group is open to all St. Johns County residents,” DeMonbreun said, adding Compassionate St. Augustine and the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida assisted in establishing the St. Johns County organization.
The cooperative is “open” for three months, DeMonbreun said. Residents can join at flsun.org and choosing St. Johns County to join.
“Our team conducts a [home] roof review and we let them know within 48-hours if they have a good roof to move to solar,” DeMonbreun said. “We need a minimum of 30 residents to sign up.”
Once the minimum number of residents signs up, DeMonbreun said Florida Solar United Neighborhoods then sends out a request for proposals to local and state solar panel installation and manufacturing companies to see which would provide the most affordable installation.
“They have two weeks to submit a proposal back to us,” DeMonbreun said. Then, the people who joined the cooperative form a selection committee to decide which company to hire for solar installation. The members agree to pay the installation cost.
The point of the cooperative is to drive down the price, which would be lower in a bulk purchase compared to individual purchases. The maximum number of members in the cooperative usually ends at about 225 people, DeMonbreun said.
Richard Burroughs, who lives in a housing development near World Golf Village, is one of the St. Johns County residents who’s already signed up to join the cooperative.
Burroughs said he is interested in adding solar power to his 2,300-square-foot ranch house to drive down energy costs, plus he also is concerned about the environment.
“I want to be part of the sustainable energy movement,” Burroughs said. “I’m retired and I want to cap as many costs as I can … .
“It [the cooperative] provides me with an education. I didn’t even know how solar panels could be put on your roof or that was even legal in Florida. I can also get a 30 percent federal tax credit,” Burroughs said.
The news conference Tuesday also brought an endorsement from St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver.
“I think it’s important because it makes the shift to solar affordable and accessible to most people. Separately as a city, we’re talking to Florida Power & Light about demonstration projects and solar. We’ve looked at solar as a city,” Shaver said.
Shaver has previously questioned whether man-made products have ecological impact. But she said there is no irony in her support of the solar cooperative.
“My role is to look out for this city. When I look out for this city, I’m a data-driven person. I look at the data we have about this city and what we need to do as elected officials,” Shaver said. “Personally, as you can tell, I’m obviously committed to solar and I have been for over 30 years.”
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098
8 August 2017 9:24 pm
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