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Solar ‘Co-op’ Powers Up In St. Augustine To Make Sun Power Cheaper

Ryan Benk
Compassionate St. Augustine's Warren Clark speaks at City Hall Tuesday in front of two large solar panels.

A statewide nonprofit calling itself a “solar co-op” is expanding into Northeast Florida by establishing a chapter in St. Augustine.

Florida Solar United Neighborhoods — or FL SUN — aims to cut the costs of solar by harnessing area residents’ collective buying power.

It was a bright, blistering Tuesday morning at St. Augustine City Hall — some might say too hot for an outdoor press conference, but perfect for talking solar, with a PA system powered by a set of two large panels on display.

FL SUN, along with St. Johns County partner Compassionate St. Augustine, is guaranteeing it can lower the price of panel installation by up to 20 percent by bundling installation contracts and soliciting bids for a single co-op provider.  

“We develop these solar co-ops that strengthen the Florida market overall by providing installers with a pool of good customers and empower a broad base of support for solar,” said FL SUN Director Angela Demonbreun.

FL SUN is the state chapter of the national Community Power Network, and it’s partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to set up co-ops in Miami-Dade and Seminole counties, with plans to move into Duval soon.

Demonbreun said the group is starting in areas demonstrating significant interest, while working to educate others about solar cost sharing. She said rural counties like Putnam and Baker may not have the population to sustain a co-op, but could combine buying power with other counties through FL SUN.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter on @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.