SUN Launches Co-Op To Help SWFL Residents Go Solar Together

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is excited to announce the launch of the Southwest Florida 2023 Solar Co-op to help Lee and Collier county residents go solar. The return of a Solar United Neighbors co-op to the region is the result of a collaboration with the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group, a coalition of local organizations working to address energy resiliency and sustainability for the community.

The recent impacts of Hurricane Ian have highlighted the urgency to help homeowners rebuild a more resilient community. Rooftop solar when paired with battery storage can help power homes and lifesaving equipment during power outages.

A brief launch announcement will occur at noon Tuesday, Jan. 17 during the SWFL Climate & Community Summit at the Arthex One Conference Center, 1 Arthrex Way, Naples, Fla. SUN’s Gulf Coast program associate will be tabling at the event to answer questions about going solar, and to share their experiences.

“The co-op will enable Southwest Florida homeowners and business owners to join the growing community of people saving money by harnessing solar power,” said Julia Herbst, Gulf Coast Program Associate for Solar United Neighbors.

“Together, we’re building a movement to transform our electricity system into one that is cleaner, fairer, and shares its benefits more broadly. And with the ever-present threat of hurricanes, there’s never been a better time to strengthen the electricity grid,” Herbst said.

As Floridians continue to rebuild and recover from this past hurricane season, rooftop solar is one way that consumers can rebuild more resilient communities and be prepared for the next storm. Solar panels can handle severe weather events and, if the homeowner has battery storage too, solar can keep critical appliances and medical devices up and running. Solar systems installed in hurricane zones are designed to withstand hurricane force winds.

The co-op is free to join and open to homeowners and business owners in Lee and Collier counties. Together, co-op members will learn about solar energy and leverage their numbers to purchase individual solar systems at a competitive price and top quality.

After a competitive bidding process facilitated by SUN, which remains vendor neutral, co-op members will select a single solar company to complete the installations. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

Partnering on the co-op are the City of Sanibel, Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Bailey’s General Store, Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group, Committee of the Islands (COTI), “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Friends of the Refuge, Engage Estero (formerly ECCL), Growing Climate Solutions, The Climate Reality Project – Lee County Chapter, All Faiths Unitarian Congregation, and the League of Women Voters Collier County.

A few words from our partners

“We are excited to support this solar co-op for Southwest Florida,” said James Evans, Chief Executive Officer for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “Harnessing energy from the sun just makes good economic sense and should be embraced by everyone in the Sunshine State.”

“Bailey’s General Store has enjoyed great success since we first utilized the solar co-op model in 2020. We’re excited at the opportunity to increase our energy production beyond the 480 panels currently in operation. Rooftop solar fits well with our environmental and financial business strategy for economic recovery in the next 24 months,” said Richard Johnson, Owner of Bailey’s General Store. “We’re fortunate a majority of our 480 panels survived the Category 5 winds during Hurricane Ian. As we make plans to rebuild, solar and other resilient energy technology will play an integral role in reopening our doors and returning to normal.”

“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to make the residents and businesses of greater Estero aware of this co-op. It will save solar co-op members money, contribute to reducing climate warming’s adverse effects and favorably impact our quality of life,” said Jim Gilmartin, President of Engage Estero (formerly the Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL).

“Hurricane Ian is a strong reminder of how important energy resilience is to our region and state. Rooftop solar can be a part of the solution. Plus it can save money for homeowners, businesses, cities and nonprofits while keeping our air cleaner. It’s a no brainer!” said Bob Moore, Co-Chair of the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group.

“Our rooftop solar installation was the best investment we made. Different from the stock market, solar is a low risk high reward investment. Our local contractor is very responsive even years after the installation,” said Mario Wolf, resident of Naples and member of the Southwest Florida 2020 Solar Co-op.

SUN has hosted 76 solar co-ops in Florida since 2015. According to the group’s estimates, the 2,341 homes and businesses that now have solar panels because of co-ops represent: 23 thousand kW of solar power, $55 million in local solar spending, and more than 698.7 million lbs. of lifetime carbon offsets.

SUN will host several free information sessions to educate community members about solar energy and the co-op. Individuals interested in going solar can sign up for the co-op or one of the upcoming information sessions at

Information meetings are planned for:

Southwest Florida 2023 Solar Co-op Info Session
Tuesday, January 17
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. EST
Estero Park & Recreation Center
9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd
Meeting Room 103A
Estero, FL 33928
Register here

Florida Solar 101: Webinar
Monday, January 30
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. EST
Register here

Florida Solar 101: Webinar
Tuesday, February 28
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. EST
Register here

Find upcoming co-op events and info sessions at

About Solar United Neighbors
Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in Florida and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Solar co-ops are part of the organization’s mission to create a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment, and advocate for fair solar policies.

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