DEADLINE APPROACHING: Keys residents ready to go solar with help from local nonprofit

Going solar provides energy savings, assurance in storms

The Keys, FL – Residents of the Florida Keys have until January 29 to sign up for free for the Florida Keys Solar Co-op. Sixty-nine individuals have joined the solar co-op. Space remains available for 31 others.

This opportunity comes shortly after Congress passed COVID-19 relief legislation that extends the federal solar Investment Tax Credit. With the new legislation, residents will be able to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes.

“Now is a great time to go solar,” said Laura Tellez, South Florida program coordinator at SUN. “We look forward to helping as many people as possible install solar in time to benefit from the tax credit.”

In November, members of the Florida Keys Solar Co-op selected SALT Energy to install solar panels for the group through a competitive bidding process. The company is in the process of developing personalized proposals for each co-op participant.

The group, which opened at the end of August, is already at 70% capacity and is actively recruiting additional members. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

The solar co-op is free and open to the public. This is SUN’s second solar co-op in the Keys. Partners include the CLEO Institute, the City of LaytonLime Tree Bay Resort, and SELF.

Solar panels can handle severe weather events and, if the homeowner has battery storage too, solar can keep critical appliances up and running. Solar systems installed in the Keys must be designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. The Florida Solar Energy Center reviews and approves all system components before a solar company can install a system. This ensures systems remain intact and attached during storms.

While Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage across the Florida panhandle in 2018, solar systems remained intact. This included installations resulting from SUN’s solar co-ops in Bay and Franklin counties.

The house of former solar co-op member Elisabeth Murray was in the path of heavy wind and rain from Hurricane Irma in 2017. “During the storm, I was worried if the panels would hold up,” Murray said. “The panels held up fine. As soon as we got power back, I checked on the app [that monitors her solar production]. We were producing again and everything was normal.”

Kathryn Smith’s battery storage kept her necessary items powered during a grid outage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Smith installed solar with a previous solar co-op hosted by SUN. She said, “I was able to keep my refrigerator running during the day and lost very little food despite being without [grid] power for four days. I was also able to run fans to bring the cool morning air into the house, which kept the house reasonably comfortable and less humid.”

Since the group opened, SUN has provided several free webinars to interested homeowners and business owners in the Keys. “A big part of our mission is to help people go solar,” said Tellez. “A critical component of that is to inform residents about solar—the technology, the incentives and financing, and the benefits to them and the community.”

In addition to free webinars, SUN provides free roof reviews and in-depth information about solar in Florida. The organization has hosted 60 other solar co-ops in Florida since 2015, helping more than 1,700 people navigate the process and install solar on their homes and businesses.

Individuals interested in going solar can sign up for the co-op, as well watch SUN’s free webinars with more information, at www.solarunitedneighbors.org/keys.

There will be one more free webinar on January 27 at 6:00pm.