New Pinellas co-op for rooftop solar power

Clean energy

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Pinellas County residents can now join together to negotiate a discount on rooftop solar power; a new cooperative is forming, called St. Pete Solar Co-op, that will let residents negotiate a group volume discount on solar panels and installation.

Julie Kessel is president of the St. Petersburg area League of Women Voters.

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“Well, this co-op is a wonderful opportunity for our residents, in the community, to get affordable solar, help the economy, and save money on their energy bills.”

The League of Women voters of Florida is teaming with other groups to form what’s known as FL Sun.

“St. Pete has an established co-op and it’s the power of collective buying for our group. So, residents would join the co-op and then we negotiate for solar, as a group.”

The Suncoast Sierra Club is also involved, as is a group called the Community Power Network. Its state director is Angela Demonbreun.

“So, a solar co-op is a defined geographical area of homeowners that really come together and the biggest benefit is the cost savings of up to 20%, when they come together. We bring in an installer and it’s a community-driven process, they handle all the decision making.”

Demonbreun says the cost savings from reduced electricity bills will typically pay for the cost of installing the solar panels after about seven years. That’s because the co-op can negotiate prices that are about 20 percent less than retail.

St. Pete Solar Co-op was unveiled in a news conference Tuesday morning on the Steps of St. Petersburg City Hall.

“Let me first begin by stating that Michelle Obama did not right my remarks this morning.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman began his speech by cracking a joke targeting last night’s Republican National Convention speech by Donald Trump’s wife, but quickly moved to the benefits of solar power.

“So, going solar in St. Pete will help reduce our carbon emissions and help make our community a healthier environment. We know solar is cost-effective and increasing solar installations will add green jobs to our economy. It is truly time for St. Pete to take the initiative to make solar energy a part of how we do business.”

An Orange County resident, Mary Dipboye, participated in a similar solar-co-op in central Florida. She says her 5.7 kW system cost $13,000 before a federal tax credit.

“My house is about 2,300 square feet. One story. And the system cost about $13,000, but, I was able to get that 30% investment tax credit, so it brought it down to more like $9,000. A nice benefit.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida is recommending that people vote for the solar power amendment on the primary ballot in August, but vote against the energy industry-backed amendment on November’s general election ballot.

There will be a St. Pete Solar Co-op town hall meeting next Thursday, July 28 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Sunshine Center Auditorium, 330 5th Street North.

Here’s another solar power initiative via The White House.

Watch the press conference: