Solar co-ops provide many services to members. They educate members about solar and bring together solar supporters. Perhaps most importantly, they enable co-op participants to select a company to install solar on their homes. Co-op members drive this process.
Once at least 30 people have joined the co-op, FL SUN issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) to area solar installers. RFPs are open to any installer, and are competitively bid. Each co-op has the opportunity to customize the RFP and scoring criteria to reflect local values and preferences. Co-op members indicate the things that are important to them (e.g. panel types, warranties, pricing, location) when they sign up for the group.
After the co-op receives the installers’ bids, FL SUN convenes a selection committee composed of co-op members. The selection committee is open to all co-op members. FL SUN provides technical assistance, creating a side-by-side comparison of each bid. It is co-op members themselves that make the selection. Selection committee members weigh each proposal against the co-op members’ selected criteria.
This ensures communities have maximum ownership and control over the decision, and allows FL SUN to remain a neutral consumer advocate. This process is one of the distinctive aspects of the co-op model.
While many private-sector solar companies strive to educate potential customers, FL SUN acts as a customer advocate rather than a sales company. We provide neutral, unbiased advice and technical assistance, and do not partner with any particular companies or service providers. This makes us a trusted partner for potential solar customers, filling a critical gap in the solar marketplace.
We prioritize local participation and leadership in all of our solar co-ops. Community partners provide input throughout the planning and implementation process and can play a large role in shaping the co-op audience and priorities. Local leadership is important and makes co-ops more successful. Recognizing and customizing the co-op to address local priorities and recruitment avenues helps maximize the project’s impact and encourages as many people go solar as possible.