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SOLAR AND CLEAN ENERGY

Orange County’s goal for clean energy seeks to reduce barriers to alternative energy and increase renewable energy production by 10 percent through 2020 and 25 percent by 2040.

To assist homeowners looking to add solar power to their homes, Orange County Government launched its first solar co-op in the summer of 2016 with 515 . Of those participating households, 79 installed solar through the co-op, accounting for 702.83 kilowatts of new solar capacity in Orange County. Building on that momentum, Orange County Government partnered with Solar United Neighbors of Florida to bring two additional solar co-ops to residents in 2018.

For residents living in unincorporated Orange County, an electrical permit is required for solar installation. The permit checklist and fee schedule (PDF) are available for download.

LEADERS IN SOLAR PROGRAMS

For its efforts in making solar power easier to obtain and more affordable for residents and businesses to install, Orange County Government was recently awarded Gold-level recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored program known as SolSmart. Orange County is the first County in the state of Florida to receive Gold-level designation for its solar efforts.

To achieve this designation, Orange County optimized its permitting process to speed up approvals, offered the convenience of online permitting and provided specialized training to its plan reviewers and inspectors. Solar permits are typically approved within 24 hours.

SolSmart is a national nonprofit designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers them to expand local solar markets.

Solsmart logo

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

› What is a solar co-op?

A solar co-op is a group of neighbors who get together to use buying power and obtain solar energy systems for their homes at a discounted price (ranging from 15 to 33 percent). Each participant signs their individual contract with the installer, but everyone gets the discount. The co-op group uses a competitive bidding process to select a company that will install systems on all of the participating homes. Ultimately, residents save money, educate themselves about the process and share knowledge.

Orange County is partnering with Solar United Neighbors of Florida, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, to provide technical assistance to neighborhood solar co-ops at no charge to participants.

› Are permits required for installing solar power on a home?

Yes. Residents who live within city limits should contact the building department of their municipality. Residents of unincorporated Orange County need an electrical permit. The permit checklist and fee schedule are available for download.

› Will my homeowner association (HOA) restrict me from installing solar panels on my home?

While a homeowner cannot be prevented from installing a solar energy system, certain restrictions may be imposed by the HOA without violating Florida Statutes. However, those restrictions must be reasonable, not arbitrary, and uniformly imposed on homeowners in a subdivision. The restrictions cannot act to impair the performance of a solar system or it may be seen as "effectively" prohibiting solar.

Florida Statutes section 163.04 forbids ordinances, deed restrictions, covenants, or similar binding agreements from prohibiting solar equipment use. Pursuant to the statute, a homeowner may not be denied by "any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property..." permission to install a solar collector, clothesline, or other energy device using renewable resources. The law specifically prohibits a homeowner association from preventing the installation of solar collectors on the roof. Although the association may determine where on the roof the collectors may be installed, so long as the installation is within the area required for its effective operation, that is, south, east or west of due south. There has been some litigation with respect to the applicability of Section 163.04. (See Florida Statute Section 163.04); However, most cases have been resolved through mediation.

› What is Solar United Neighbors of Florida?

Solar United Neighbors of Florida, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, provides technical assistance to neighborhood solar co-ops at no charge to participants.

Solar United Neighbors expands access to solar by educating Florida residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Florida’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters. Solar United Neighbors of Florida’s Program Director will actively work to establish co-ops, including issuing a Request for Proposal on behalf of the co-op's and provide technical support.

› If you sign up for the solar co-op, does that mean you must purchase a system?

No, joining the solar co-op just shows you are interested in learning more. If you choose not to join the co-op, you will not be able to get the discount, but joining ensures you will receive the discount if you decide solar is right for your home and finances. There is no fee associated with signing up, and there is no pressure to install a system.

› How do citizens learn more or sign up to be in the co-op?

To learn more and register for an information session, visit www.solarunitedneighbors.org/florida or email FLteam@solarunitedneighbors.org.

› Who can participate in the co-op and how many members are needed?

The Orange County East Solar Co-op is open to all Orange County homeowners who live east of I-4. The Orange County West Solar Co-op is open to all Orange County homeowners who live west of I-4. The solar co-ops are open to all residents in Orange County – including those in city jurisdictions.

Co-ops generally need at least 20 participants in order to get a bulk discount. Orange County’s goal is to obtain 220 participants in each solar co-op, with 30 percent of the residents opting to go solar.

› Are businesses able to sign up to be in the co-op?

Yes, businesses can sign up and participate, as long as they are able to move forward with their project on the same timeline as the other program members.

› What is the cost to go solar and what is the return on investment?

The exact price of a PV (photovoltaic) system is dependent on a homeowner's preference in system size and that particular home’s energy consumption. Costs can range from $9,000 to $27,000, and there is a federal tax credit of 30 percent off the system’s purchased cost. Homeowners have the option to install the PV system that fits their budget. Return on investment is typically five to seven years and panels can last 20-25 years.

› Does the condition of my roof limit my ability to install solar panels?

The solar installer that is selected by the Orange County Solar Co-op members will inspect the roof and verify the age. If the roof is more than 15-17 years old, then the solar installer typically recommends that a new roof be installed prior to the installation of the PV system.

› How many people in Florida have had solar panels installed?

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, about 97,444 homes in Florida are powered by solar energy.

Partners

Orange County Government is pleased to have partnered with Solar United Neighbors of Florida. The partnership is also supported by community groups throughout Orange County.

Orange County Government is pleased to partner with Solar United Neighbors of Florida. The partnership is also supported by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Orange County branch of the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Orange County, Rollins College, Winter Park Garden Club, Sierra Club of Orange County, Orlando Audubon Society and the First Unitarian Church of Orlando.