Solar co-ops help members go solar, live their values

By Ben Delman on June 27, 2019
A selection committee meets to choose an installer.

For many people, going solar is more than just a financial calculation. It is an expression of their values. Solar United Neighbors has worked for more than a decade to empower groups of homeowners to go solar through a bulk purchase process known as a solar co-op. Solar co-op members are active participants in getting solar installed on their homes. Now, working with Florida For Good, we’ve made improvements to the solar co-op process to help solar co-op members better ensure the installers that serve them are responsible stewards to their communities.

Solar co-op members work together to learn about solar technology and the process of getting solar installed on their homes with the expertise of Solar United Neighbors. Once the group is large enough, about 25 members, Solar United Neighbors works with members to develop a request for proposal (RFP) for installers. This process enables solar co-op members to easily compare the bids from installer and select one to serve the group. The chosen installer then develops personalized proposals for each co-op member. Members review their bid and decide individually if going solar is right for them.

“Working with Florida For Good, we’re helping co-op members use the power of the bulk purchase to ensure bidding installers share their values in how they run their business and how they impact their community,” said Angela DeMonbreun, Florida Program Director for Solar United Neighbors. “We are hopeful this will set high standards across the industry.”

The solar co-op RFP contains a battery of questions about all aspects of the installation, from the price the installer will charge for panels, the type of equipment they’ll use, and their local experience. Solar United Neighbors and Florida For Good developed a set of criteria that is now included in this RFP process.

This updated RFP will give co-op members a fuller understanding of how the companies bidding on the co-op operate. The new questions screen installers for a variety of items. They range from diversity and inclusion efforts, such as the employment of women, minorities and residents from unemployed or underemployed communities to information about the payment of a living wage in each community where they work.

Click here to learn more about solar co-op opportunities where you live.