Once Andy and Colleen Williams’s solar-panel system is given the green light to be switched on, they will have the first house in Windermere — and one of about 50 in the entire metro Orlando area — running on solar power.
The longtime Windermere residents currently live in a house on Lake Down; in fact, it’s Andy’s childhood home. But the discussion about going solar has been ongoing since they were in their previous house.
“Our daughter is 8 years old, so when she was born, it was like, ‘How do we change the carbon footprint in the world?’” Colleen Williams said. “Solar panels are something we always wanted to do. It’s important that she have a life, her kids have a life and that they have the resources we had.”
Andy Williams is a broker at Lakeside Realty in Windermere, and he originally heard that Tesla-backed solar-power company SolarCity was coming to the Orlando and Windermere areas through a friend. One of his agents is good friends with Scott Smith, the Williams’s SolarCity representative. Upon expressing interest in solar power and talking with Smith about it in January, the Williamses knew they wanted to move forward with the process.
The family has gone through the consultation and installation processes and now have 62 solar panels installed on their roof. All that’s left to do is wait on paperwork to process with Duke Energy, allowing them to switch the system on.
SolarCity is the largest distributor and manufacturer of solar panels in the country, Smith said, with nearly 400,000 installations thus far and growing. With the recent amendments nationwide regarding solar power, Smith said, the interest and desire to get on board with it is growing.
“SolarCity has been in operation for 10 years now and was purchased by Tesla in November,” Smith said. “(CEO) Elon Musk’s goal is to reduce emission in the world by 60% (by the time he dies).”
SolarCity has 315-watt photovoltaic panels that convert the sun’s radiation into usable electricity via the use of solar cells. These small, square-shaped panel semiconductors are typically made from silicon and other conductive materials. When sunlight strikes a solar cell, chemical reactions release electrons, generating electric current.
The goal of running on solar power not only is to reduce carbon footprint and contribute to the green movement of being environmentally conscious. Its aim also is to get to the point where solar-panel users essentially have no electric bills. Rather, the amount they pay to use their solar panels is competitive with utility companies’ charges.
And according to SolarCity, the average solar system will offset 178 tons of carbon dioxide in 30 years.
The Williams family will still technically be “on the grid” — the home still will be connected to Duke Energy’s grid. It is actually illegal to go completely off the grid, Smith said, and the family still will need electricity at night.
But, the Williams’ solar panels will generate so much power on a sunny day that any excess power is conserved and put into the utility grid. This then offsets the energy used at night.
“We will produce more electricity all day long than we use, and then we use our credits back at night,” Andy Williams said. “Hopefully, we’re going to produce 105% to 110% of our need, so there will be an overage.”
THE PROCESS OF POWER
Because this is the company’s first installation in the town of Windermere, it had to begin relationships with permit coordinators in both the town and Orange County. For this reason, the process has taken longer than it would in a solar-established area. The typical timeline from consultation to switching the system on is about 90 days.
“Every time we start in a new township, it’s a little bit of a process,” Smith said. “They (the Williamses) are kind of the pioneers for this town, so their extended amount of time will be helpful to the next person. Basically, we are looking for green-minded people whose roof is good, their shading is good, and they get enough sun hours to make it work.”
After the initial consultation — in which Smith and other company representatives examine a potential customer’s property, roofing, shaded and sunny areas and more — all the information is sent to Silicon Valley, California, where designers create a blueprint of the house and potential panel placements. Once the homeowner and any associated agencies approve the plan, the panels are ordered and installed.
The family hopes to be able to begin using the system by the end of the month.
“We’re super excited about the whole process and beyond thrilled with SolarCity and the customer service we’ve gotten from every ounce of their systems,” Colleen Williams said. “(And) Duke’s been really supportive for me; I’ve needed so much from them the last few months. We’ve had a lot of questions and they’ve been super supportive in answering them.”
Andy Williams added that although the family is not extreme on the spectrum of the green movement, they look forward to playing their part in being more conscious of the environment.
“We’re not obsessive,” he said. “We don’t have an electric car, but I think if everyone does a little bit — this goes along with recycling and everything else — it goes further. You don’t have to be an extremist in one direction to be green conscious. We want to be able to tell people ‘Yes, everything works and it’s green, but also our cost savings are constant.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].