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Broward Homeowners Choose To 'Go Solar' With Co-Ops

Scott Lewis checks on the control box for solar panels that were turned on about two weeks earlier.
Caitie Switalski Munoz
Scott Lewis went solar during the last co-op. He checks on the control box for his solar panels that were turned on about two weeks ago.

Scott Lewis recently finished installing 20 panels on his house. He's encouraging other homeowners that it's worth the upfront costs. The Solar United Neighbors co-op in Broward is accepting new members until November 30th.

Solar United Neighbors has been facilitating co-ops in Broward County going back to 2017. Now the co-op for 2021 is still accepting new members. The nonprofit helps people buy into renewable energy in groups.

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Under the gumbo limbo tree in Scott Lewis's front yard in Pembroke Pines, he shows off his energy usage from his solar panels in real time on an app.

"Every 15 minutes, it kind of updates the readings, here, to give you the latest on how much energy you're generating and what's happening with the system," he explains.

To finance his eco-dream, Lewis got a loan based on the equity of his house to fund the upfront costs. Between $16,000 and $17,000 for the panels. However, going solar through the co-op was less expensive than if he'd gone out on his own. Plus, a federal tax credit helps.

Between different types of loans, U.S. government-backed programs, or paying over time through your property taxes, South Florida Program Coordinator for Solar United Neighbors, Laura Tellez, said she believes there's more flexible financing options out there for people who want to make the investment, but worry it might be too cumbersome.

"We helped to facilitate the competitive bid review and bid proposal, but the co-op members form a selection committee and they're the ones that select the installer," Tellez said. "People can always reach out to us with any questions...And it's truly like a community effort."

She explained the extra energy Lewis's solar panels generate goes back to the grid for his neighbors.

"So you are producing and then there's leftover that you're exporting into the grid and so you get a credit," Tellez said.  

That eco-conscious mindset was one of the things that attracted Lewis and his wife, Billie Goldstein, to finally make the upgrade a priority for their house.

Lewis, 69, used to work for Broward County as a natural resource specialist. He's semi-retired now. And he argues the best part of going solar is knowing he's reducing his ecological footprint.

"Not just, OK, 'what's in it for me,' you know, how do you leave this earth? I mean, certainly my parents and grandparents thought about the world as a place that they have to take care of other people as well," he said. "So I think that's an important value for all of us to share."

The solar panels on Scott Lewis' roof.
Cutler Bay Solar Solutions for Solar United Neighbors of Florida
The solar panels on Scott Lewis' roof.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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