‘What’s Next’ for solar energy for Gainesville?

by Lynn Jamieson

After two controversial solar amendments last year, consumers are curious about the rapid speed of solar power growing throughout Florida. Can Alachua County become a sustainable city?

In efforts to address this and other questions, the Interfaith Climate Group is presenting “What’s Next” – a free and open to the public forum examining solar solutions and climate change on Sunday, March 26 at 2 pm. The forum is sponsored by the Earthkeepers of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, at 4225 NW 34th Street.

Three speakers will examine the move toward solar energy and how families can be part of the solution. At present, Florida is 13th in the country in production of solar energy. However it is third in potential; after all, it is the “Sunshine State.”

Dr. Wendell Porter, of the department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at UF, will discuss new, best practices with solar energy in Alachua County.

For nearly 40 years, Dr. Porter has focused on energy issues. He has researched solar panels at UF’s Energy Park and  taught Global Sustainable Energy to UF undergraduates. Dr. Porter also teaches sustainable construction practices and structures that conserve energy and resources. Little wonder that last summer, University of Florida’s Evolve magazine named Dr. Porter an “Energy star.”

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) regional organizer, Abhaya Thiele, will share the CCL approach to helping the country move towards alternative energy.

By putting a fee on carbon at the source, either at the mine, well or port of entry, the cost of carbon will be equalized, thus becoming a market-driven approach to energy. Those monies then will be returned directly to citizens, also equally, in the form of dividend checks.

The forum includes Wes Wheeler, representing the Solar Co-op sponsored by League of Women voters, who will provide information on the formation of this co-op, its purpose and its impact on Gainesville.

Participation in the co-op reduces the price of adding solar panels to households and businesses. The co-op will gather bids from solar business to find the best price for the quality, given the number of co-op members.

The speakers will answer several questions after each presentation. Forum attendees will have additional opportunity to pursue their specific interests with the speakers from the forum.

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