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East County Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 1 year ago

Nonprofit seeks more solar power options in East County

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A buying cooperative may shed light on energy conservation.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Lakewood Ranch’s Ed Bachtle wants to make his home solar powered, and he’s passionate enough about the idea to help spearhead efforts to make it happen — at a discounted price.

Bachtle is one of about a dozen people volunteering with a nonprofit buying cooperative called Manatee Solar Co-op.

On Jan. 8, the co-op officially will open. After there are 30 members, the co-op will solicit bids from solar vendors and select one with which to work. Co-op members, at that time, will be given a negotiated rate and an individualized roof inspection and then will determine whether they want to purchase a solar energy system.

“This kind of brings self reliance,” Bachtle said of why solar energy appeals to him.

Members have no obligation to purchase solar products, but they are guaranteed the negotiated rates if they do. When Sarasota County had a buying co-op last year, less than half of co-op members purchased units.

Bachtle and other Manatee Solar Co-Op volunteers are meeting with neighborhoods and groups to tout the benefits of solar energy and about how the co-op will work.

Homeowners will consider factors like the age of their existing roofs, the size of their home and other financial commitments, before signing a contract with the vendor.

Bachtle said he isn’t sure he will end up buying solar through the co-op, given the age of his roof and upcoming college expenses for his children, but it’s still an idea worthy of pursuit.

Whitfield Estates resident Wendy Hacker, who also is involved in the startup co-op, agreed.

“The co-op is to create an atmosphere for a pretty good discount,” Hacker said. “Every house is different. Every person is going to want something different.”

The federal government is offering a 30% tax credit through 2019 for solar energy installation, which is why Manatee Solar Co-op is forming now, Hacker said.

Bachtle has been interested in solar energy since moving to Florida from Delaware 14 years ago, but an August article in the East County Observer further spurred his interest. There, he learned about Solar United Neighborhoods and began researching the organization. Now, he’s helping form Manatee’s buying co-op under its umbrella.

With Florida’s sunny weather, it seems like a natural place to utilize solar energy, he said.

Hacker agreed.

“Even though we’re a sunny state, we’re behind in the use of solar renewable energy,” Hacker said.  “We want people to see solar panels put up and get started.”

The Manatee Solar Co-op will host an informational meeting about solar and how the co-op will work Nov. 18 at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA.

More information can be found on the website for the League of Women Voters of Manatee County at lwvmanatee.org/commits.html.

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