Villagers learn about solar panels during LWV presentation

Mary Dipboye, founder of Central Florida Solar Advocate, was the guest speaker at Monday’s meeting of the League of Women Voters in The Villages.

Mary Dipboye, of Central Florida Solar Advocate, addressing the League of Women Voters.
Mary Dipboye, of Central Florida Solar Advocate, addressing the League of Women Voters.

Dipboye’s talk covered three main areas. She updated members on upcoming state amendments, talked about her journey of getting solar at home and introduced a new solar advocacy group starting up in Florida.

Dipboye encouraged attendees to vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 in the August elections.

“If you want to expand solar, vote yes,” said Dipboye. “This amendment has the support of Republicans, Democrats, the chamber and utility companies.”

She feels differently about the amendment slated for the November ballot.

“It will enshrine what is already the law; making it difficult for purchase power agreements,” she said.

Next, she described the process that led her to getting solar panels on her roof. She had a “driveway moment” while listening to a National Public Radio story about the Community Power Network, a grassroots solar advocate organization, and how it originated. She was inspired to start a co-op in her Winter Park neighborhood. Last May, she held an informational meeting; it took her until the end of that summer to get 20 people on board. At that point they interviewed solar installation companies, settled on a Tampa-based company and ended up with 30 homes in her neighborhood getting solar panels at the same time.

Dipboye noted that doing it with a co-op saves both money and effort. A representative from the Community Power Network assisted them and attended many of the meetings, especially the ones interviewing contractors via Skype.

“We couldn’t have done it without their expertise,” said Dipboye.

Dipboye then helped a co-op in Winter Haven with their solar project. This came to the attention of Deirdre Macnab, former president of the Florida State League of Women Voters and current natural resources officer for the state board. Working with the Community Power Network, planning is in place to hire a director for the state of Florida. The director would be involved in setting up neighborhood co-ops throughout the state. Financing is currently being sought to make this plan a reality.

Villagers Robert Pine and Ron Ciecka along with LWV member Annie Grewe. All have solar panels on their homes.
Villagers Robert Pine and Ron Ciecka along with LWV member Annie Grewe. All have solar panels on their homes.

Throughout the talk the speaker was peppered with questions. Assisting her with answers regarding local regulations were three homeowners in the audience who have solar panels on their homes. Village of Ashland resident Annie Grewe said she installed solar panels in 2009. Robert Pine of the Village of Lynnhaven had his house built with energy efficiency in mind. He installed solar panels in 2007 and again in 2015. Ron Ciecka of Lakeshore Cottages installed his in 2009. He expects to save money and said his solar panel installation resulted in a neighbor becoming interested and adding them to his home.

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