Nonprofit Geared to Help Northwest Florida Go Solar

Oct 25, 2018

Solar energy is becoming more popular in recent years. Solar United Neighbors is helping homeowners to get more informed about the process.
Credit U.S. Army Environmental Command

Going solar is easier than you might think.

That’s at least the message of Solar United Neighbors.

Since 2007, the nonprofit has helped 2,800 households — and counting — go solar across the country by putting together a co-op of homeowners interested in solar energy. The co-op works together to select an installer and takes advantage of the group’s bulk-purchasing power to receive a discount. 

Florida Program Director for Solar United Neighbors Angela DeMonbreun said the nonprofit helps the co-op receive information and submit a request for purchase to the installer of their choice. A minimum of 20 people are needed to establish the co-op.

“Going solar can still be an intimidating process,” she said. “We help provide the basic tools so people can make an informed decision.”

Solar United Neighbors is funded through grants and referral fees from installers.

Earlier this week, Solar United Neighbors held their first informational meeting for the Okaloosa-Walton co-op. About a dozen people were in attendance at Northwest Florida State College. Solar United Neighbors will hold another meeting Thursday night in DeFuniak Springs and a third meeting on Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa Beach.

The Okaloosa-Walton area will be the 38th co-op. A co-op in the Franklin and Bay County area is currently in the middle of installation.

“We have about 30 projects underway in Franklin and Bay Counties and we were halfway through (before the storm),” DeMonbreun said. “There will be some delays, of course. The homes where panels were already installed had no problems.”

Pricing for solar panel installation varies for each home, DeMonbreun said. Co-op members do get a discount by purchasing in bulk. Those who choose to go solar can save up to 30 percent using the solar investment tax credit (ITC) before it is set to expire on Jan. 1, 2022.

Having “energy freedom” is one of the benefits of going solar," said DeMonbreun. Another big one is lower electric bills.

“Some customers see a reduction of 50 percent or more on their electric bills,” she added. “And you’re reducing the need for dirty fuel sources.”

The deadline to sign up for the Okaloosa-Walton co-op is Jan. 10. For more information, visit solarunitedneighbors.org/okaloosa-walton