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St. Pete Solar Co-op: “Let the sun pay your bills.”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg on Tuesday became the first Tampa Bay city to be the site of a solar cooperative.

The cooperative will make it easier for homeowners and businesses to afford the equipment needed to rely on solar power, advocates said.

kriseman2“I’m proud to support this idea of co-ops,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “It is truly time for St. Petersburg to make solar a part of how we do business.”

The co-op is the creation of the St. Pete chapter of the League of Women Voters, the Suncoast Sierra Club, FL SUN, and the Washington, D.C.-based Community Power Network.

Based on the same principle as buying in bulk, co-op members purchase solar systems together to save money and share knowledge. The group uses a competitive bidding process to select a single company that will install systems on all of the participating homes. Each participant signs his or her own contract with the installer, but everyone gets the bulk discount. By going solar, advocates say members can see savings of up to 20 percent off the cost of a solar system.

It’s an idea that’s already working in Orange County, the first in Florida to have a solar co-op. St. Pete will be the second, but will be the first to bring together business and property owners in one co-op.

“Solar co-ops make saving money with solar energy easier and give members greater confidence in their decision because they go through the process together,” said Emily Gorman of the Suncoast Sierra Club’s 100 percent St. Pete campaign.

The immediate goal is to get 400 people in the co-op. Advocates said that should translate into 200 solar installations in homes. The St. Pete Solar Co-op has scheduled an information session at 6 p.m. July 28 at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N. Or, go to for information or to sign up. Membership is free and does not commit anyone to buying a solar array, advocates said.

Advocates also took the opportunity to talk about Amendments 4 and 1. Both are solar-related. Amendment 4, which will be on the Aug. 30 ballot, could give certain tax breaks to encourage property owners to install solar system. The League of Women Voters is recommending that voters say yes to the item.

Amendment 1 will be on the Nov. 8 ballot is backed by utility companies. The amendment would make current law regarding solar power a part of the state Constitution. The League is recommending voters turn it down.

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