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SOLAR AND CLEAN ENERGY

Building a community powered by clean, renewable energy will help us achieve an inclusive and healthy quality of life. Orange County’s goals are to reduce barriers, dramatically increase clean energy in our region, and power 100% of County operations from clean, renewable energy by 2035.

In partnership with Solar United Neighbors of Florida, solar co-ops provide an opportunity for homeowners to save money by leveraging the power of bulk negotiation. By joining forces, residents in a co-op can ensure they get the right system, a strong warranty, quality installation and unbiased support at a discounted price. Orange County solar co-ops have generated more than $8.3 million in economic development to local contractors and has offset 56,240 metric tons of carbon.

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.

SIGN UP FOR A SOLAR CO-OP AT: https://solarunitedneighbors.org/orange

Installing solar systems provides many benefits including:

  • Slashing electricity bills each year for residents
  • Creating abundant well-paying jobs for solar installers
  • Lowering respiratory illness rates caused by air pollution from fossil fuel power plants

The road to solar power is paved one panel at a time. Return to this page to watch for the announcement of the next Orange County co-op opportunity, offering all residents cost savings to install solar energy systems on their homes. Visit https://solarunitedneighbors.org/orange for more information.

Prior Installations and Capacity per Solar Co-op
Solar Co-op Installations and capacity
Orlando-Winter Park 2015 31 installs, 267 kW
Orlando-Winter Park 2015 56 installs, 610 kW
Orange County 2016 80 installs, 703 kW
Orange County East 2018 50 installs, 532 kW
Orange County West 2018 31 installs, 276 kW
Orlando 2019 64 installs, 756 kW 
Orlando 2020 44 installs, 494 kW 
Total 356 installs, 3,638 kW

LEADERS IN SOLAR PROGRAMS

Orange County is a top-ranked county in Florida for installed solar on the grid in 2020. In 2018, Orange County was the first county in Florida to earn the national SolSmart GOLD designation from the U.S. Department of Energy for advancing solar growth in the community by making it easier for homes and businesses to install solar energy through streamlined permitting, technical training for staff, contractor training, and community wide education. Solar permits are typically approved within 24 hours.

Orange County is generating clean energy at three locations including the UF/IFAS Extension Center (19.8 kW), the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (38.8 kW), and the Orange County Convention Center (1.1 MW), and has 2 MW of solar being planned for installation.

In 2007, Orange County’s Board of County Commissioners adopted its first Climate Protection Pledge that outlined strategies to support energy conservation and the growth of renewable energy in our region. In 2021, Orange County unveiled the Orange County Sustainable Operations & Resilience Action Plan that includes a roadmap to dramatically increase clean, renewable energy throughout the County.

Solsmart logo

COMMUNITY-WIDE PROGRAMS

  • Orlando Utilities Commission's (OUC) OUCommunity Solar and Duke Energy Florida's Clean Energy Connection Program allow business and residential customers to gain “virtual” access to sustainable, maintenance-free solar energy at a nearby utility-scale power plant.

  • SELF Home Improvement Financing Program – Orange County is proud to partner with SELF(Solar & Energy Loan Fund), a nonprofit community lending partner providing equitable and accessible financing for assorted home improvements to help save money, improve hurricane resistance, and enhance comfort and livability.

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 residents 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.