Solar Co-Op Launches in Sarasota



A new solar co-op could ensure more Sarasota residents power up through sunlight. Florida Solar United Neighborhoods, or FL SUN, announced the creation the Sarasota Solar Co-Op at a special event Wednesday morning at the Florida House. “We’re forming this co-op to make saving money with solar energy as simple as possible,” says John Lambie, FL House Institute Executive Director. “Working with the group helps members learn about the technology so they feel confident in their decision to go solar.” 

Of 100 people attending a press conference on Wednesday, Lambie figures three quarters were people interested in getting solar on their own homes. The Florida House offers examples of how sustainable technology can be used at a home, but the co-op may actually assist people in paying for the service, he says. “The biggest value proposition when you look at this is the collaboration in the community,” he says. “That’s good for everybody.”

The concept behind the co-op involves buying equipment in bulk to save money and share knowledge. Groups hold competitive bidding procedures, then buy from a single company to install panels on a number of participating homes. Organizers say this can save consumers as much as 20 percent on equipment and help them navigate an intimidating process. FL SUN has launched a similar effort on the Space Coast, and is following the model of other co-ops in other stated like Maryland.

The group will be sponsored by the Florida House Institute, League of Women Voters Sarasota, Sierra Club, Sarasota Classified Teachers Association and Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, in addition to FL SUN. The effort will also be launched with funding from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “This is right in our wheelhouse of environmental grant-making,” says Teri Hansen, executive director of the Barancik Foundation. “The fact Florida ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential but only 14th in solar installation made us want to have a role in giving this a shot.” 


Jon Thaxton, senior vice president of community investment at Gulf Coast, says the co-op could prove transformative, and the foundation was pleased to have the opportunity to help the program launch. “You have to show leadership on order for this organization to gain the support they need,” Thaxton says. “We do believe the opportunity for augmenting electricity to homes in Florida by solar is meritorious, and it’s a market-based solution.”

The co-op will need 40 participating households to start in earnest, and information sessions will be held over the next couple months to inform interested residents. Events scheduled so far include January 18 at 1pm at the Venice Community Center, January 19 at 5pm at Selby Library and February 24 at 11am at Twin Lakes Park.

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