A solar cooperative that promises to bring the price of panels down 30 percent through bulk-buying has suspended plans to expand in Duval County.
Co-op organizers say a move by JEA to lower residential subsidies for excess solar power makes it economically unfeasible.
The St. Johns Solar Co-op, which launched three months ago, has already signed up around 150 people with average incomes between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. More are expected to sign on before registration ends Friday.
Originally, organizers planned to set up shop in Duval by January, but after recent changes to JEA’s rooftop solar policies, Solar United Neighbors of Florida state program director Angela Demonbreun said it’s indefinitely halted plans.
“People are going solar because of the economics and the payback is a working investment. So, we’re seeing price come down and we expect, and solar homeowners expect to be fairly compensated for the energy they are contributing to the grid,” she said.
JEA last month voted to cut net metering rates — the rate at which the utility pays solar users for excess power — from 10 cents a kilowatt hour to three cents. Instead, the utility announced it would offer rebates for battery storage so customers could use most of that excess power they usually sell.
But Demonbreun said battery storage is still economically inaccessible to most of the people these co-ops serve. They just won't see the same return on investment, she says.
“Bringing the net metering rate down to three pennies just doesn’t make sense and it’s truly [JEA] not wanting to grow rooftop solar,” she said.
Under the new JEA plan, anyone who installs solar before April of next year will lock in the current net metering rate, but Demonbreun said between applying for membership and installation, it’d be an impossible deadline to make for a potential Duval co-op.
Meanwhile, FL SUN’s launched its newest co-op Wednesday in Palm Beach County.