July 14– Tallahassee, FL
The League of Women Voters of Florida has announced the launch of a solar initiative aimed at bringing affordable solar to the Sunshine State.
Let’s make Florida number one in solar power.
“Experts tell us Florida’s sunshine gives it the potential to be among the top three states in America for solar power, and starting today, Floridians can start planning for the sun to help pay their electric bills,” President Pamela Goodman said.
The League has partnered with a new, but experienced group called FL SUN, which will organize solar co-ops to negotiate steep discounts on rooftop solar for homeowners across the state. The campaign will begin in key markets including Orange County, and St. Petersburg, with plans underway to quickly expand to Brevard and Volusia Counties, Sarasota, Alachua and many more.
Sarasota-based Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the state’s largest of its kind, was an early supporter, and CEO Mark Pritchett said: “We are excited about this creative free market approach, which places power in the hands of our Gulf Coast citizens.”
Interested homeowners can sign up now to join an existing co-op or express their interest in joining or helping to start one in their area. Sign up at www.FLSUN.org.
How will these solar co-ops work?
The solar co-ops bring together homeowners interested in going solar. Co-op members will work with FL SUN and the League to learn about the technology and if going solar is right for them. By going solar together as a group, co-op member get a discount through the group’s bulk purchasing power, saving an average of 20% compared to the cost of an individual installation.
Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. The co-op solicits competitive bids from local installers and chooses the one that is best for the group. Co-op members then each get an individualized proposal for their home that reflects the group discount. At this point, group members can decide if they would like to go solar.
The FL SUN concept has worked successfully in other states and locations including Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. More than 1,200 homeowners have gone solar through the co-ops.
“The League’s decades of work in sustainability and concern about encroaching ocean water on coastal cities made the program a good fit with the League’s education and action, with members believing that the Sunshine State should lead the way,” said LWVF President Pamela Goodman.
“If you’ve ever thought about going solar, now is a great time to do so. The cost of solar has declined rapidly. This gives main street Florida the opportunity to let the sun help pay their electric bills,” said Angela DeMonbreun, FL SUN’s state director.
The campaign also includes advice for voters this fall. The League has launched a YES/NO campaign on the two upcoming solar amendments based on the League’s long standing position of supporting solar expansion in our state. It urges any voter who supports solar to vote YES in August on Amendment 4, and NO in NO-Vember on Amendment 1.
Reminding voters to say No in NO-vember, is important says LWVF President Goodman, pointing out that Amendment 1 has been almost fully funded by utilities anxious to cement their control of solar power, and thus slow the adoption of it by making it less affordable and eliminating competition in the marketplace.
Amendment 4 in August however, gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the League as it will provide a break on the intangibles tax that will go a long way in helping small businesses and commercial buildings utilize solar, and thus reduce the burden on power plants and the need for expensive additional power plants as Florida’s population grows.
Stephen Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an early supporter of the new FL SUN project, said: “Voting to support good solar energy policies will allow more Florida residents and businesses to enjoy the many benefits solar power brings to the Sunshine State.”
Smith said Amendment 4 in August increases solar availability by lowering burdensome property taxes on solar equipment. In sharp contrast, the deceptive utility company backed Amendment 1 in November is designed to limit customer-owned solar power, thus protecting utility profits.
Deirdre Macnab, former President of the Florida League and presently Chair of the League Natural Resources/Solar Action Group, said the excitement around the state is sky high.
“Already we have signed up several partners in key markets who want to help, and some counties have even signed up with FL SUN to extend the program to all interested citizens,” Macnab said, noting that FL SUN would be presenting to the state’s many sustainability directors in late summer. She expects the program to grow rapidly as “Floridians seize the chance to capitalize on the Sunshine State’s gift of solar power.”