First two solar co-ops launch in Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade residents have formed solar co-ops to save money and simplify the installation of solar power, while building a powerful network of solar supporters. Co-op members work together to learn about solar energy and solicit bids from local installers to serve the group. Working together, co-op members are able to save up to 20% off the cost of installing solar through this bulk purchase process.

Partners in this effort include: The League of Women Voters, Florida, League of Women Voters Miami-Dade, The Green Corridor Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) District, Tropical Audubon Society, Rise Up Florida, CLEO Institute, Citizens Climate Lobby, Sustainable Miami, Resilient Miami, Urban Impact Lab, Unitarian Universalists Congregation of Miami , Women’s March Miami, Commissioner Ken Russell’s office and FL SUN.

The partnership looks to develop six solar co-ops over the next year. It is starting with two co-ops, one in Central Miami – North and the other in Central Miami – South. These co-ops launched with a May 24 press conference at South Miami City Hall.

Miami-Dade residents interested in joining a solar co-op in their area can sign up at www.flsun.org/miami. Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Once the group is large enough, FL SUN will help the co-op solicit competitive bids from area solar installers.

Co-op members will select a single company to complete all of the installations. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participants can save up to 20% off the cost of their system.

The co-ops will host free solar information meetings as each co-op launches to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

Central Miami – North co-op information session

May 31, 7:00 p.m.
City of Miami City Hall
3500 Pan American Drive
Miami, Fl 33133

Central Miami – South co-op information session

June 1, 7:00 p.m.
Pinecrest Community Center
5855 SW 111th Street
Pinecrest, FL 33156

FL SUN seeking Program Associate

FL SUN is growing! With new co-ops launching across the state and past co-ops wrapping up, we are helping more homeowners than ever go solar and become Florida’s solar champions.  To do that, we’re looking for a new Program Associate to join the FL SUN team!  A job description for the position is listed below.


DESCRIPTION

About the Position

Community Power Network (including DC SUNMD SUNWV SUNVA SUN, OH SUN, and FL SUN) is seeking a FL SUN Program Associate to support our FL SUN program. The associate will support the FL SUN Program Director in implementing solar co-ops and educational programs across the state.

The Program Associate will support the FL SUN Program Director in meeting program goals throughout Florida. The Associate is expected to travel across Florida to host public information sessions and to meet with co-op members, including a number of evening meetings.

The Program Associate will report to the FL SUN Program Director and will function as part of the larger CPN team. CPN staff will provide strategic oversight and support, helping to build fluency in our co-op model, technical solar knowledge, and our online tools (including Salesforce).

The position is full-time for one year, with the possibility of extending if funding continues to be available.

Qualifications

Qualified applicants will have at least two years work experience, a strong understanding of effective organizing techniques, an ability to develop relationships with community members and organizations, and a strong motivation to help grow this program. Must be comfortable learning how to utilize our Salesforce database, editing websites, and communicating with FL SUN members via email and phone. Solar knowledge is not required, but prior knowledge will be favorably considered. The Program Associate must be located in Jacksonville metro area.

Job Description and Duties

  1. Support FL SUN Program Director in day-to-day administration of the FL SUN program, providing additional support wherever needed
  2. Plan, organize, and conduct public information sessions and hold public meetings for solar co-ops and general solar educational activities.
  3. Work with community anchor partners to build new solar co-ops and implement other program goals. Develop strong constructive working relationships that will last the length of the co-op and evolve toward larger state level efforts.
  4. Support outreach strategies for each solar co-op, including identifying communication opportunities, developing modes of dissemination, establishing partnerships, Pursuing media opportunities, and planning web, print, online, phone and in-person outreach meetings.
  5. Recruit, nurture and empower individual volunteers to help implement outreach strategies for co-ops.
  6. Maintain back-office infrastructure and manage communication with FL SUN members
  7. Support co-op process of selecting a solar installer
  8. Plan and implement celebration parties after events and invite elected officials, disseminate pictures, and promote press coverage to build visibility of CPN and state networks.

HOW TO APPLY

jobs@communitypowernetwork.org

Applicants should send a resume and cover letter to Emily Stiever at jobs@communitypowernetwork.org.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until 5/31/17.

BENEFITS

Full health insurance and option to contribute to 403(b)

LEVEL OF LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY

English required, Spanish a plus.

PROFESSIONAL LEVEL

Entry level

MINIMUM EDUCATION REQUIRED

No requirement

Solar brewery works to help Alachua County homeowners go solar

In April, FL SUN kicked off the Alachua County Solar Co-op with a launch event at Gainesville’s Swamp Head Brewery. Swamp Head was the first brewery in the state to install solar panels. Swamp Head’s pioneering solar effort makes it a perfect partner for the new co-op.

Swamp Head Brewery installed its solar panels in 2014 as part of the build out of its brewery facility. Swamp Head worked with Gainesville-based Solar Impact to install 57 solar panels on the facility’s roof. In a typical year, those panels will produce roughly 15,000 kWh of electricity, a significant portion of the Brewery’s energy usage.

As members of FL SUN know, reasons to go solar in Florida abound. Whether it’s for energy cost savings, sustainability rationale, energy independence, or community economic development, solar has value to all Floridians. For Swamp Head in particular, the decision was easy.

“We knew we wanted to go solar based on our commitment to sustainability and our location here in the Sunshine State,” said Brandon Nappy, marketing director for Swamp Head. “It seemed like the perfect choice to harness the energy of the sun.”

Since going solar in 2014, the brewery has seen myriad benefits from its solar installation. First and foremost are its electricity bill savings. By producing its own electricity from the solar panels installed on their roof, the brewery has decreased the amount of electricity it purchases from the local utility. This has translated into major savings, upwards of $300 every month.

What’s more, Swamp Head has been able to use its solar power to distinguish itself from other area breweries. “Utilizing solar speaks to the core values of our brand and this helps people understand who we are as a company,” Nappy said. At present, Swamp Head is the only brewery in Florida to power itself with solar.

FL SUN is excited to partner with Swamp Head on the Alachua County Solar Co-op. For more information about the brewery, visit www.swamphead.com.

Alachua County co-op releases RFP, announces info session

The 30-member Alachua solar co-op today issued a request for proposals (RFP) from area solar installers. The group members created the co-op to save money and make going solar easier, while building a network of solar supporters. The League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Swamp Head Brewery, Unitarian Universalists Fellowship of Gainesville, Earthkeepers, Interfaith Climate Group, Ygrene Energy Fund, We Are Neutral, and FL SUN are the co-op sponsors. The group also announced it will host an information meeting May 21 at 3:00 p.m. at the Alachua Library Branch to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

Local installers interested in serving the group can download the RFP and response template. Alachua County residents interested in joining the co-op can sign up at the co-op website.

Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Co-op members will select a single company to complete all of the installations. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, each participant generally saves up to 20% off the cost of their system.

Amendment 4 implementation moving forward

Florida legislators continue working on a bill to enact Amendment 4. This would allow commercial buildings to add solar without raising their property taxes. This will allow more Floridians to benefit from solar. Amendment 4 passed last summer by a 73-27 margin.

Both the Florida Senate and House have bills moving through their respective legislative committees. Once all the relevant committees vote the bills will go before the full Senate and House. The Senate bill is SB 90 and the House bill is HB 1351.

The Senate and House bills contain separate language. Should both versions pass as is, the bills will have to be reconciled and then voted on again by both bodies.

Alachua County residents form solar co-op to go solar together, get a discount

Neighbors in Alachua County have formed a solar co-op to save money and make going solar easier, while building a network of solar supporters. Suwannee St. John’s Sierra Club, League of Women Voters Alachua County, Swamp Head Brewery, Earthkeepers, Interfaith Climate Group, Ygrene Energy Fund, We Are Neutral, and FL SUN are the co-op sponsors. The group is seeking members and will host an information meeting on April 30 at 3 p.m. at the Alachua County Library Headquarters (401 East University Avenue) to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

Alachua County residents interested in joining the co-op can sign up at the co-op web page. Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Once the group is large enough, FL SUN will help the co-op solicit competitive bids from area solar installers.

Co-op members will select a single company to complete all of the installations. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participant can save up to 20% off the cost of their system.

As solar grows in Florida, solar customers should be aware

Solar adoption is growing across the Sunshine State at an impressive clip. This isn’t surprising given solar’s recent dramatic drop in price and Floridians’ desire to take control of where our energy comes from. A new report by the Solar Foundation finds the number of solar companies in the state now stands near 400.

But this quick expansion has a downside. As with any rapidly growing industry, disreputable or unqualified companies are springing up to take advantage of eager but ill-informed customers. It is important to understand how prospective solar customers can protect themselves. Below are suggestions to ensure you have a good experience going solar.

Get multiple bids Don’t just opt for the first solar company that contacts you. Shop around. This will allow you to compare different installers’ pricing and customer service operations.

Check references The installer you select should be able to provide you with multiple examples of work the company has done with satisfied customers. You should look for references whose project was similar (e.g. roof type, system size) to yours. Keep in mind, if the reference is someone directed to you by the installer, it is likely they will provide a positive review. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and sites like Yelp and Angie’s List as well.

Carefully review the terms of the deal This can be the trickiest part of going solar. It is important you understand the full details of your contract. Important questions to ask include who owns the system and what parts of the system are warrantied.

It is important that as more and more Floridians are going solar, the community of solar supporters grows along with it. FL SUN works with communities to educate them about solar technology and the process of going solar. Our goal is to create an informed market where solar customers are protected and the market continues to grow. Sign up for the FL SUN listserv to connect with solar homeowners and prospective homeowners. This is a great forum to get your questions about solar answered.

Additional resources

Check out these resources below if you would like more information about working with a qualified solar company.

Rooftop solar can create 135,000 Florida jobs over the next decade

by Will Driscoll

Solar energy not only helps homeowners save money on their electric bills, it also creates jobs. New data show just how many jobs that could be in Florida. A report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that Florida could produce 46 percent of its electricity needs by installing 76,000 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar capacity. Installing that much rooftop solar in Florida would yield about 135,000 jobs for ten years.

The NREL figure represents Florida’s technical potential for solar. Technical potential refers to what is physically possible, tempered by common sense—e.g., no panels where they would be shaded for much of the day. NREL calculated the amount of solar that could be produced on unshaded roof planes that are either nearly flat, or that face east, southeast, south, southwest, or west. If any such roof plane could accommodate at least 1.5 kilowatts of solar panels, NREL modeled solar on that roof plane. Adding these areas together yielded a technical potential of 76,000 MW of rooftop solar in Florida.

NREL assumed an average solar panel efficiency of 16 percent, and noted that if panels averaging 20 percent efficiency were used, the solar potential would be 25 percent greater (because 20 is that much greater than 16). At least three firms make solar panels exceeding 20 percent efficiency.

The technical potential is just a theoretical concept. Yet the economic potential–that is, the rooftop solar installations that would save building owners money–may not be far behind. This will be especially true over the next decade, as solar costs keep falling due to technology improvements and economies of scale. In the coming years, solar’s economic potential will keep rising.

Florida’s estimated job potential from rooftop solar is based on the Solar Foundation’s count of 260,077 U.S. solar workers in 2016, and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s reported 2016 U.S. solar installations of 14,626 megawatts. Dividing the two yields almost 18 workers per megawatt of solar installed.

Finally, spacing out the installation of NREL’s 76,000 megawatts of Florida rooftop solar over ten years would mean 7,600 megawatts of rooftop solar installed annually. Multiply that times about 18 workers per megawatt and you get 135,000 jobs—for a ten-year period. Jobs from utility-scale and community-scale solar would be additional.

For rooftop installations, the number of jobs per megawatt installed would arguably be higher than the U.S. average in 2016. This is because rooftop jobs are smaller and more labor-intensive than utility-scale solar projects, which were included in the average. On the other hand, with a big increase in the size of the rooftop solar industry, economies of scale should also come into play. On balance, a potential 135,000 rooftop solar jobs in Florida for ten years is a reasonable ballpark estimate.

Will Driscoll is a writer and analyst. He previously conducted environmental analyses for EPA, as a project manager for ICF Consulting. He earned a master’s degree in economics and policy from Princeton.

Broward residents select installers for solar co-ops

FL SUN and Go Solar Florida-Broward County have organized more than 100 area residents to go solar together through the East Broward Solar Co-op and the West Broward Solar Co-op. The group of East Broward homeowners selected SEM and the group of West Broward homeowners selected Guardian Solar through competitive bidding processes to install systems for the co-ops’ members. Organized with the help of Broward County and many local partners, the collaboration is enabling participating homeowners to install solar panels on their homes at discounted rates.

SEM and Guardian Solar will develop individualized proposals for East Broward and West Broward co-op participants respectively. Co-op members will review their proposal and sign a contract with their selected installer if they decide to go solar.

The East and West Broward Solar Co-ops will be open and available to new participants through April 27. All Broward County residents are eligible to participate. Visit www.flsun.org/east-broward and www.flsun.org/west-broward to learn more about solar and to sign up to join the group. Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels.

Deciphering your utility bill

Before you go solar, it can be helpful to understand what it is you’re currently paying your utility and where the charges come from. Below we’ve broken down the sections from a typical utility bill to help you understand where your money goes.

Rate: This is how much your utility charges based upon the type of dwelling that is being metered. Utilities charge residents, businesses, and industrial facilities different rates. The Florida Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating the state’s utilities and approving their requests for rate increases. These requests are managed through a legal proceeding at the Commission.

Customer charge: The customer charge is paid whether or not you use any electricity or not. This is important for solar customers to consider. Even if you are able to offset all of your energy consumption, there will still be this small charge to pay.

Non-fuel charge: This is the portion of your electric rate that goes to pay for maintaining the transmission system and power plants.

Fuel-charge: This what you pay for the fuel used to generate your electricity.

Storm charge: This charge is to repay bonds resulting from storm cleanup needs from the 2004-2005 hurricane season

Gross receipts tax: This is a tax paid to the state of Florida.

Franchise charge: This is paid to municipalities to allow the utility to operate in their jurisdiction.

Utility tax: This is tax levied by municipalities on utility service.

Below is a bill from the same home after the installation of solar panels.