Doug Nelson purchased his Tampa Bay home with a clear plan to have solar panels installed. Fast forward 20 years, and his Valrico estate is now mostly powered by solar energy.

Nelson partnered with Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit organization that works in collaboration with Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. Solar United Neighbors connects residents interested in converting to solar energy and secures advantageous deals for them.

With a successful track record of assisting over 2,400 families in Florida, the organization enables individuals to save money while taking control of their energy sources.

Residents have until the end of August to join Solar United Neighbors’s Hillsborough County co-op. The solar co-op promotes competitive bidding among solar vendors. However, it’s difficult to quantify the exact savings for residents due to varying proposals.

The primary advantage of the co-op is the assurance of a high-quality installation at an affordable price.

This year’s co-op is especially valuable as it coincides with hurricane season. In the event of power outages caused by storms, solar-powered systems allow residents to maintain essential infrastructure such as air conditioning and refrigeration.

How Solar United Neighbors Helped Doug Nelson

Nelson’s house relies on the grid for power at night because it lacks batteries. However, during the day, his solar panels generate surplus energy, which he sells back to the utility company. This trade allows him to earn a credit on his next month’s power bill, reducing his monthly electric costs to zero.

Even on days with cloudy or rainy weather, Nelson’s panels consistently produce a small surplus of power. To guarantee uninterrupted solar energy during the day, he intentionally had more panels installed than necessary.

Nelson attended an educational meeting hosted by the county last year. While others were curious about how solar energy works, Nelson found himself especially fascinated by the co-op’s operations.

“I’ve been a solar nerd for a long time,” Nelson admitted.

Once the community gathers enough participants, typically between 25 to 30 people, a committee is formed. This committee then selects the most suitable bid from solar providers.

Residents have different energy needs, resulting in varying costs. If participants choose to remain part of the project, they are required to stick with the same solar provider. However, they can opt out at any time. Some residents may decide not to invest in additional features, and they won’t have to share those costs with others who choose more expensive options.

Last year, it took Nelson and the committee members two hours to choose among eight solar installers. Once a provider was selected, Nelson’s system was installed in just one day.

Doug Nelson’s Solar Energy System

Nelson’s setup boasts advanced technology. Each panel has its own power converter, which efficiently transforms solar energy into a stable voltage. He monitors the system through an app on his phone, receiving notifications if any panel malfunctions. Furthermore, he has calculated that his panels offset carbon emissions equivalent to planting 157 trees.

Nelson used to wonder why more people didn’t switch to solar energy. However, after installing 24 panels at a cost of $24,000, he now understands the financial commitment involved. Despite that, he believes it’s a worthwhile investment if you have the means to afford it.

Nelson is pleased with the appearance of the panels, strategically positioned to face south and maximize sun exposure. Unlike the previous perception of solar projects resembling science experiments, his modern panels reflect vibrant sunsets, creating an aesthetically pleasing sight on his roof.

The unintended consequence of going solar is that Nelson now spends more time appreciating the beauty of the sky, as it is elegantly mirrored by the panels.