Solar United Neighbors
Investing in solar energy is one way to reduce waste.
Around the United States, solar installations have grown 17-fold in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Yet within Florida solar still provides just a tiny percentage of overall electricity consumption.
However, a growing number of consumers are turning to solar energy for long-term cost savings and to minimize environmental impact. “Solar is clean,” says Alice Newlon of Bradenton, organizer of the group Solar United Neighbors Manatee. “You’re not generating toxic fumes, and it’s renewable.”
Plus, it helps that we live in the Sunshine State, so there’s a constant source of sunlight to be tapped for solar energy, she adds.
Photovoltaic cells in solar panels convert energy from the sun into electricity. This is then fed into the panels used distribute electricity throughout the home. This energy can save you money over time, depending on how much energy you use in your home. Solar panels can last 25 years or more.
Solar United Neighbors Manatee is part of a national coalition that bands neighbors together in a regional area to achieve cost savings in the investment of solar energy panels. Solar United Neighbors Manatee began in January and is the 21st group in Florida, Newlon says. Sarasota already has a Solar United Neighbors.
Members of Solar United Neighbors Manatee have met regularly to select their solar installer. The group, organized as a co-op, works with installers to explain the installation process and how solar energy can be financed.
Sometimes people are skeptical about solar energy or are concerned about the initial cost. Th at’s where education about solar energy is helpful. “It’s a mindset change. This is the time to get it,” Newlon says. There is a 30% federal tax credit for solar panels installed this year and next year. Other incentives are available as well. Federal tax credits will decrease over time, according to Solar United Neighbors.
One group of county residents bands together at a given time to accept a bid and get panels installed; later, a new group of neighbors can come together. In Orange County, which includes the Orlando area, the first group of Solar United Neighbors included 50 to 60 people; by the third grouping, there were 500+ neighbors, Newlon says. “As word spreads, interest grows. As it becomes more common, it will blossom in the state,” she says.
When someone signs up to join Solar United Neighbors, the group will do a review of the home’s roof on Google Earth to make sure it is suitable for capturing solar energy. Sometimes, the roof may have too much shade. Other times, the person may need to invest in a new roof, if the roof is older. However, most roofs are suitable for solar, says Newlon, a member of the League of Women Voters. The League is a major sponsor of Solar United Neighbors Manatee.
For more information, go to www.solarunitedneighbors.org/florida/go-solar-in-florida/go-solar-in-a-florida-group/manatee-county-solarco-op or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sarasota Solar United Neighbors will launch again this May. Sign up for more information at www.solarunitedneighbors.org/stay-informed.Participation in Solar United Neighbors is free.