St. Petersburg Sustainability Summit

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Rollout of St. Petersburg solar power co-op. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (19 July 2016).

The City of St. Petersburg was one of the first to commit to becoming a 100% clean energy city. To that end, Tuesday afternoon there’s a Sustainability Summit in south St. Petersburg. It’s at the Childs Park YMCA at 43rd Street South. It began at 3 and goes until 7:30. One participant, Doug Coward is the executive director of SELF, the Solar and Energy Loan Fund.

“SELF is a non-profit community lending organization. … What we do as a non-profit bank is try and provide homeowners with capital at reasonable interest rates so that they can make assorted home renovations that include air conditioning, solar products (solar water heaters, solar PV systems), we do wind hazard mitigation. So, we’re doing everything from roofs to impact windows [to] hurricane shutters. So, we’re generally giving homeowners small loans, between five and fifteen thousand [dollars], and we’re helping them overcome that upfront cost and then be able to stretch out those payments and make them affordable. And we really specialize in working with low- and moderate-income communities and people who may not be able to get access to capital from traditional sources like banks. They may have had a credit issue at some point in their time. Our standards are less stringent than traditional banks.”

In these communities there are solar co-ops being formed and this is a way for people to — if they couldn’t normally afford the up-front money for a solar system on their house — this is one way they can use to supplement in order to have enough money.

“Exactly. Tampa / St. Pete has been leading the state trying to promote solar and they’ve done these solar co-ops, which are essentially bulk-rate purchase so that you can get major reductions on the costs of those systems. And then our non-profit green bank provides financing for people so they can access those products at a reduced rate.”

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