THE ISSUE: Proposed solar cooperative.

OUR OPINION: Excellent approach.

The League of Women Voters of Citrus County seeks to switch on local awareness about the benefits of solar energy.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

To that end, the organization is promoting the establishment of a cooperative of homeowners; a concept that’s taken hold in Florida metro areas and is expanding.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) has joined forces with the Community Power Network to establish the Solar United Neighbors (SUN) of Florida. SUN is a nonprofit program designed to educate people about solar energy and how participation in a co-op can cut costs through competitive bidding and bulk buying. That alone can cut the cost of buying a solar system by 10-20 percent, according to LWV.

Under the program, SUN takes competitive bids from local solar installation companies. Then, a selection committee chooses the company deemed best suited for the work. After that, co-op members get individualized proposals from the installation company, which includes a group-discount rate.

At that point homeowners can decide if they want to go solar or not. Joining the co-op costs nothing and comes with no obligations.

For those who want to move ahead, LWV of Citrus President Kate Betsko said: “At that time, if you sign a contract, then you’re obligated to the installer and then SUN will follow this through all the way to the very end. They will help if there’s an issue. All a co-op member would have to do is call SUN and they would try and get it resolved. They don’t leave you hanging.”

So, the initiative involves education about solar, makes it more affordable, and provides advocates for those who take the step.

No doubt, solar energy is not for everyone in CitrusCounty. An initial investment of, say, $15,000 could save the homeowner about $1,000 a year, but if one is not planning to live in that home long enough for the purchase to pay off, it may not be worth it.

However, for many people, it’s a smart investment. That’s where the education component of the co-op is very appealing. Learn about it, then decide.

It’s important to note that going solar does not mean coming off the power grid. When solar isn’t generating enough energy or is designed for limited purposes, homes are still connected to power lines and can use that form of juice whenever wanted. However, with solar, the ballpark savings is a one-third drop in a household power bill.

At this point local LWV officials are paving the way toward a Feb. 21 news conference about the co-op with a question-and-answer session. It will be at 10:30 a.m. at Central Ridge Library in Beverly Hills. After that, plans are for three follow-up informational meetings.

The League of Women Voters has taken on a good cause in pursuing a solar cooperative for Citrus County. For many, a degree of energy independence can pay off both environmentally and financially.