Florida lags behind other states in producing clean, renewable energy from the sun. It doesn’t crack the top 10 in state rankings, even while being promoted nationwide as the Sunshine State.
But, Florida, along with other states across the country, is embracing solar power, and other clean energy sources, in ways that don’t always get noticed.
Solar panels, wind farms and electric-powered vehicles are among the technologies driving the alternative energy industry.
It’s often described as the quiet revolution, said David Sillman, coordinator for North Pinellas FL Sun, or Solar United Neighbors of Florida.
Sillman was the featured speaker on Jan. 22 at the Dade City Garden Club meeting. His topic was “Electrifying Future: Solar and Alternative Energy.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association has ranked Florida 13th nationally for solar capability, but also reported that the state has the third-highest potential for solar capacity.
Sillman said other rankings have put Florida as low as 18th.
“The good news is, we’re catching up,” Sillman said.
The Washington D.C.-based Solar United Neighbors and its chapters around the country are joining with other like-minded organizations and nonprofits, including the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club, to promote solar power.
North Pinellas FL Sun and the local League of Women Voters, for instance, partnered in 2016 to launch the St. Pete Solar Co-op.
There also is the Hillsborough County Solar Co-op.
Currently, Sillman said he knows of no cooperatives in Pasco County.
But, solar cooperatives are simple to pull together. “All that is needed is volunteers,” he said.
It can be neighbors who want to install solar panels on their homes, or who simply want to learn more about the renewable energy industry. Joining a cooperative doesn’t require that a member install solar panels.
However, as a group, members can get bids from local solar companies that offer discounted rates on installation, Sillman said.
Costs over the past years have fallen, he added.
His costs in 2011 were about $25,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath home. It might cost about $10,000 today, Sillman said.
According to Clean Energy Guide, costs for solar panels have dropped 99 percent, from $50 per watt in 1979 to 50 cents per watt in 2015.
Also, federal tax credits are available.
Typically, solar systems pay for themselves within 8 ½ years, and they come with 25-year warranties, Sillman said.
The life of a system can be from 30 years to 40 years, he added.
For information on solar energy and cooperatives, visit SolarUnitedNeighbors.org.
Published January 31, 2018