Tri-County Working Group Update September 2016


Tri-County Working Group

By Jon Brainard

August 16 on a rainy and hot Florida afternoon, our group set off from Dunnellon, Homosassa Springs and Ocala to visit Green Key Village in Lady Lake.  Green Key Village, near the huge and infamous The Villages “city”, this new green community (subdivision)  in Lake County bills itself as a place where your home can run on sunshine, slash your energy bill and save you money.   (The field trip was arranged by Todd Patrick and coordinated by Jon Brainard.)  Those of us who have worked on the new Sierra Club solar energy PowerPoint felt that this experience complemented our understanding of solar energy.

Ten of us Sierrans which included a few guests, had an interesting time listening to Dr. John Swanson, solar consultant and investor in the project and Greg Thomas, builder and sales chief.   Dr. Swanson told us about the importance of good insulation and said these homes are much like igloo coolers turned upside down.  He gave us a PowerPoint presentation about the facts about solar energy.  At their homes, there is not local energy storage, but the goal is to have zero net metering, meaning that each home will produce all the power they need and not have to purchase from the grid over a year’s time.   Of course, on overcast or rainy days, the homes do purchase from the grid.   However, during very hot sunny days, the homes produce more than enough electricity so that the power company purchases the extra and that balances costs out.   In the longer view, the goal is to have a zero balance and only pay the required monthly fee the power company charges, about 20 dollars.
Dr. Swanson felt that the cost of the batteries are still expensive but felt that with much research and development, costs will come down soon.  He lauded solar energy as being quiet, making no carbon dioxide emissions and said that the silicon based panels are non-toxic to our environment.

The solar panels he said would last 25 to 30 years and could be changed when you purchase a new roof.  He said that you must wash these panels about once a year after pollen season.  He noted that the federal tax credit on solar panels was renewed until 2019.   There was talk about batteries improving due to the Tesla and new Chevy Bolt with costs kept down.

Costs of these homes in Green Key start at about $350,000 and go up.   The styles are attractive but it is not yet affordable for lower income folks.

Finally, Greg took us on a tour of two of the model homes.  They had spacious rooms and very energy efficient features and appliances.  They have landscaped lots and lovely front porches.

In the course of our tour, we discussed the need to vote YES in August initiative concerning solar —to would lower the cost of energy in Florida by removing the burdensome tangible personal property tax and real estate taxes on solar energy systems.   Visit the website http://www.yeson4.org/ to learn more.

Additionally, please remember to vote NO in November —Say NO to the utility-backed ‘solar’ petition this fall.   Amendment 1 is an effort by big monopoly utilities to choke-off rooftop solar and keep a stranglehold on customers by preventing them from generating their own power. In March, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled 4-3 to allow the utility-backed petition on to the November ballot.   Visit the Floridians for Solar Choice website for more information, http://www.flsolarchoice.org/