Is solar energy the solution to saving? Here’s what you need to know

There’s a big up front cost, but also tax credits

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nestled in the 27,000-acre Sunbridge development, Weslyn Park is a first-of-its-kind community in Central Florida where every home is built with solar panels or roofs.

The developer behind the Sunbridge neighborhood, Tavistock Development Company, has teamed up with five different builders to install Tesla solar panels and roofs.

“I actually probably save on average, maybe 30% to 40% of my bill,” said Jarrett Brown, the fourth person to buy a home in Weslyn Park in Osceola County.

The cost of the homes at Weslyn Park range from $400,000 to $900,000, according to Rob Adams, senior vice president of Residential Development. Adams said the minimum 4.25-kilowatt solar package is included in the base price of the homes.

“So the buyer, when they come, they don’t see the price. It’s part of the price of the home. The builder pays for that system,” said Adams.

He told News 6 that system costs around $9,500, but there are options to upgrade by adding Tesla’s Power Wall system for back-up power and for use in the evening and other non-power generating times.

A Tesla solar roof is also an upgrade option, but we are told it is more of a niche purchase.

Adams said when buyers move in the first year they can be eligible for tax credits. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, people who get a solar photovoltaic (or PV) system on their home can be eligible for a 30% federal tax credit. The tax credit is only for people who own the solar panels, not for people who lease them.

“In the state of Florida, there’s no sales tax charged to that unit that’s put on your house and the tax assessment on your house does not include that extra value on it. So if you put $20,000 of PV on your roof, the value of your house actually will go up more than the $20,000, but you’re not taxed on it,” according to Jim Fenton, the director of the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Fenton, who is also a professor at the University of Central Florida, urged people who are interested in solar power to get several quotes and talk to people who have their own solar energy systems.

The Center for Sustainable Energy has said people can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to purchase and install a solar PV system.

EnergySage, a company that partners with the U.S. Department of Energy, has a calculator so you can see how much it will cost to get your home equipped with solar. Be aware, not every roof is ideal for solar panels.

If you cannot afford to install solar on your home, Fenton suggested joining a solar co-op. It is where homeowners, businesses and more split the cost of solar installations. The City of Orlando and Orange County have funded a solar co-op as a service to residents.

You can sign up to join here.

There are simpler ways to save on your power bill, including using ceiling fans or LED lightbulbs, which you can find online or at any big box store.

Fenton also suggested buying a programmable thermostat.

“Why air condition your house when you aren’t there?” asked Fenton. “You can get one of those for $100 where you just do the schedule. Their paybacks are real fast.”

You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

About the Author:

Lisa Bell has been in Central Florida since 2007, covering the big stories that impact our community. Lisa was promoted to News 6 evening news co-anchor in May 2014.