CHELCO has announced that they are preparing to install solar panels on the roof of their Operations Center in DeFuniak Springs in what will be the first cooperative solar project in the Florida Panhandle or Southern Alabama.
CHELCO is a member-owned electric cooperative with 50,000 members. Every year it surveys its members and in the past 10 years a shift was seen in the willingness to pay more for renewable energy.
In 2008, 39 percent of the members surveyed were willing to pay up to 10 percent more for renewable energy. However, in 2016, that number had jumped to 54 percent.
"We had to develop a way to meet that need," said Rumi Nielson-Green, manager of communications and community affairs for CHELCO.
Green said the board of directors did not want to increase costs, but they did want to offer this, even if it was just to the small population that was interested.
The board came up with offering a subscription each month to erect the solar panels for those who want it.
The offer was launched in July and since then, 71 subscribers have signed up to participate.
The coop currently only has 92 blocks of solar, but if the demand increases, names will be put on a waiting list, said Green.
The use of the solar panels comes with a $10-$11 bill increase per month.
Members may subscribe to the program for one year and agree to pay a fee of $27.50 per month or five years and agree to pay a fee of $26 per month.
The solar panels will be installed on the rooftop of CHELCO's building in DeFuniak Springs. Energy goes into a grid and the individual gets the credit.
To participate in the program is completely optional.
The site is currently being prepped and panels will be installed in the next few weeks. The project is expected to go live in early to mid-March.