Catch Some Rays
Solar power is a natural for the Sunshine State: it’s clean, renewable and we have plenty of it. It can be a smart investment with a guaranteed payback for you and the environment. Solar is becoming much more affordable. There are even attractive $0-down financing options and tax credits that make it even more economical. If you’re not ready to go solar now, consider supporting a local non-profit’s switch to solar — you’ll be helping reduce our overall reliance on fossil fuels.
Cost: Variable Out of Pocket $0-30k
First, you need to determine if your roof is ready for solar installation.
Does your roof need repairs? Is it almost time for a new roof? If so, it makes sense to repair or replace it before installing solar panels so you don’t have to remove and reinstall the panels later.
Is your roof’s size, direction, and pitch suitable for harvesting sunlight efficiently? Shadows, trees, or other buildings that reduce or filter sunlight can reduce solar production. Ideally, your roof should be open, without shading, sloped at 30–45 degrees, and facing south. Alternatively, if your roof is not suitable and you have open land, your solar array can be installed on the ground.
Use the Google Project Sunroof tool to evaluate your roof. This tool uses images from Google Earth and analyzes roof shape and shading to provide you with a personalized solar plan, taking local weather patterns into consideration.
Before sizing your system, take action to make your home more efficient. The goal is to reduce your average annual energy consumption, so you don’t end up buying solar capacity for energy you’re only wasting.
With FPL Net Metering, you get a monthly credit when you make more energy than you use and feed it back to the grid. Credits are applied back to your bill in months when you make less energy than you use. At the end of the year, FPL pays homeowners for their unused credits at a lower rate than it charges for electricity, and credits cannot be carried over year to year. Since there is no financial advantage for producing more power than you use on an annual basis, the recommended system size produces slightly less than 100 percent of your annual electricity needs. When calculating, be sure to consider any future conservation measures you might implement, as well as likely increases in energy needs, such as a growing family, buying an electric vehicle, or installing a pool.
The Google Sunroof Project provides a rough estimate of recommended solar installation size based on your average monthly electric bill. It also generates an estimate of your potential savings.
For a more customized technical analysis, the PVWatts tool from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) helps you design a system using detailed simulation parameters. Pro Tips for how to use the advanced PVWatts tool
Home solar systems are becoming more affordable, as the cost of solar panels continues to drop and tax incentives fuel consumer interest. Florida ranks 5th in the nation in solar system affordability. Of course, total cost depends on system size: a small 2kW system might be around $5,000, while a 10kW system might be $20-25,000. A modest energy-efficient home would typically need a 5kW system.
You don’t have to shop alone.
Get competitive bids at a group rate by joining a Solar United Neighbors Co-op. It is free to join and receive no-obligation competitive bids and objective advice about your solar options. Check to see if there is an active co-op in your area. Typically, a co-op opens up every year in the Sarasota-Manatee area.
If a solar co-op is not available in your area, compare pricing and service among multiple contractors. The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association maintains a searchable listing of professional solar contractors that follow industry standards for quality, safety and performance.
After you’ve determined the cost of solar, the next step is to figure out the best way to pay for it.
A cash purchase of a solar panel system is the best way to maximize your savings from solar. The typical payback period—when the cost of the system is offset by energy savings—is typically 8-10 years. After that your electricity is almost entirely free! This payback period includes the benefit of the financial incentives and rebates.
Various homeowner financing options are designed specifically for solar. Solar loans are similar to other home improvement loans with one important difference. Unlike a new kitchen, roof, or air conditioning system, solar is an asset that generates ongoing savings. And you can use those savings to pay off the loan! Solar financing with $0-down can cover the full cost of a new system with payments similar to what you would pay for electricity. While the overall savings are not as large as paying with cash because you’re paying interest on the loan, you’re still eligible for the financial incentives and rebates. Some loans can have hidden fees or high interest rates, so be sure to fully understand all interest rates, fees, and total system costs over the life of the loan before making any financial decisions.
See a round-up of financing options
If you want power when the grid goes down, this webinar by Solar United Neighbors covers the basics on solar combined with battery storage.
For solar owners, the idea of fueling your car with your own free energy is especially compelling. Electric vehicles (EVs) are quickly becoming a more affordable and lower maintenance option than traditional gasoline-fueled cars. If you’re interested in charging your EV with “home-grown” solar, make sure to size your solar system to accommodate the extra capacity you’ll need.
Maybe installing home solar is not right for you, but you still want to support renewable energy in Florida. You can support local sustainability by helping a local non-profit organization install solar at their facility either through direct giving or through a local philanthropic foundation. The Partners for Green Places initiative is a local energy efficiency program targeted to local non-profits and supported by a diverse charitable partnership.
FPL’s SolarTogether program is available to all FPL customers, although subscriptions are limited and you may be put on a waitlist. By signing up, you agree to pay FPL a fixed monthly subscription fee added to your electric bill—your share of the “start-up” cost to generate your electricity from solar. FPL uses your subscription fee to build and operate solar power facilities around the state that add clean energy to the grid. In return, you receive a monthly credit that varies based on the savings generated by FPL’s solar power plants. Currently the program subscription fees are larger than the credits. Your net return is not guaranteed, and subscription fees are not refundable.
Your net energy costs and environmental footprint will be smaller if you make incremental improvements to your overall energy consumption – in your home, your transportation, and food shopping and preparation. FPL already charges all customers a base rate adjustment to finance the cost of building solar power plants, among other system improvements. Meanwhile, true community solar—where individuals, businesses, and organizations can pool resources and develop their own local shared solar projects outside an electric utility framework—is prohibited by Florida law. While FPL’s new solar power plants will reduce the utility’s reliance on natural gas to supply electricity, centralized utility-provided solar comes at another environmental cost. FPL’s solar farms will cover thousands of acres of valuable farmland and natural lands with solar arrays.
Ready For 100
Advocate for local governments to adopt clean energy goals with the Ready for 100 Campaign. More than 180 cities around the country have set 100% clean energy goals. The City of Sarasota committed to 100% renewable energy for city operations by 2030 and city-wide by 2045. You can join the effort to inspire commitments among your local city and county leaders through Suncoast Climate Justice Coalition.
Citizen’s Climate Lobby
Become empowered through the Sarasota-Bradenton Chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby — a national non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization laser focused on passing national legislation for market-based Carbon Fee and Dividend policy will drastically reduce emissions, create jobs, and support small businesses and families — all without growing government.
Solar United Neighbors
Volunteer with Solar United Neighbors to expand solar in your neighborhood and support community solar in Florida. From sharing your solar story to organizing local solar co-ops and spreading the word about solar locally, there are many ways to get involved.
Visit the Florida House
The Florida House is a water-and-energy conserving demonstration house in Sarasota, Florida that showcases energy efficient technologies from high performance, all LED lighting, foam insulation and solar panels that power everything from the AC to the water heater. Location: 4454 South Beneva Road.
Find out what’s happening and join in with our comprehensive community events listing.
Look for these classes:
An income tax credit of 26% of the system installation cost, including labor, for systems installed by the end of 2022, or 22% if installed in 2023.
No Florida sales tax is due on your purchase of solar. That’s a 7% savings!
Normally, when you build an addition or otherwise add value to your home, your property tax bill goes up. Not so with solar. Thanks to Florida’s Property Tax Exclusion for Residential Renewable Energy Property, your solar system will not result in any tax hikes.
FPL’s Net Metering program allows you to sell any excess solar energy you generate back to the grid. FPL solar customers receive a monthly credit on their electricity bill for unused solar electricity. Once a year, FPL pays homeowners for their net electricity credits, but at a lower rate than it charges for electricity, and credits cannot be carried over year to year. Be sure to read the fine print of their policy.
A recent analysis by Zillow found that homes with solar voltaic panels sold for an average of 4% more than comparable homes without solar panels.
Financing solar can make it more accessible for many homeowners but adds additional costs and risks that affect return on investment and are important to weigh. Just as with contractors, you should research multiple options for financing and make an informed choice. Considerations include interest rates, fees, years of financing, and risks in the event of late payment or default.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a tool for property owners to finance energy and hurricane improvements through assessments levied on their property tax bill. Like any financing, PACE is complicated and comes with risks, including the potential to lose a home due to lack of payment. Be sure to do your research to fully understand the terms, ensure you will be able to pay the full costs, and compare other financing options.
This pre-recorded webinar contains key information about PACE and other financing tools, and can help you make informed decisions about energy financing options.
SELF is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution that offers solar system loans.
The HomeStyle Energy Program is a mortgage option available when you purchase or refinance your home that allows borrowers to include clean energy upgrades up to 15% of the appraised property value of the home.
Some banks offer solar financing as part of a mortgage or refinancing loan, while others specialize in PACE or equipment loans.
Good news! If you live in the state of Florida and are in an HOA, you can get solar. By law, your HOA cannot prohibit you from installing solar, nor can they restrict where you place your panels if it might affect the performance of the system. However, it’s always a good idea to let your HOA know you will be installing solar. Who knows? They may be interested in having you share your experience with other neighbors. More FAQs on solar PV
Solar panels are generally guaranteed to last 25-30 years. Most warranties for panels cover 20-25 years, producing at 80%. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t work after 30 years. They just might produce a decreasing amount of energy after that timeframe. Inverters last about 15 years and usually come with 10-15 year warranties. Every 10 – 12 years, you may need to replace your inverter. Extended warranties are available for replacing equipment. Solar systems may require maintenance from time to time. On occasion, animals or birds may damage wires. Sometimes cleaning can help performance as well, so it is recommended to have a solar professional check your system every 3-5 years. More FAQs on solar PV
If you own a solar photovoltaic (PV) system WITHOUT a battery, you are still connected to the grid and your panels will stop working when the power goes out, even if it’s sunny outside. This doesn’t mean your system is broken. This is a safety feature to protect workers from electrical shock while repairing the grid. However, if you have a battery connected to your solar array separate from the grid, your system can continue operating without safety risks to utility professionals. With battery storage, you can also charge your electric vehicle over night. More FAQs on solar PV
Submit your energy-related question to local energy experts. If selected, they will answer and feature your question on our FAQ. Not all questions will be answered. Please note that customer service questions should be directed to your utility provider.