Eco-Friendly islanders harness the sun

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By Kellie Parkin

Last week the Andersons became the first Cedar Keyans to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by installing solar panels to their home on 4th Street.

“The whole idea of living sustainably has long appealed to us,” Pat said. “We want to do our part.”

Carolyn has always been an avid recycler, Pat said, and for him sustainability and conservation was imprinted at an early age. “My grandma fussed at me all the time for standing with the refrigerator door open.”

Sixteen solar panels cover the porch roof, facing south, and produce an estimated 3,360 watts per day. Any generated power that goes unused is automatically sent back through the lines and added to the grid. Homeowners normally buy power from the electric company, but in this case the reverse happens – Central Florida Electric Co-op purchases the unused electricity from the Andersons.

“It will vary with peak usages, and of course, weather,” Carolyn said. “But we do live in the sunshine state.”

The Andersons expect the average production will come close to the amount of energy they consume annually.

“It’s likely we’ll get a check from (CFEC) some months, and we’ll send them a check some months,” she said.

With a federal tax credit amounting to 30 percent of the cost, and a state of Florida solar incentive program covering another $13,000, the Andersons will get back much of the $37,000 they originally put forth.

“The cost of the solar panels is about the cost of an economy car,” Pat said. “Except that these last a lot longer, leave no carbon print, and don’t depreciate.”

The possibility of more solar panels has not been ruled out. “We’ll take a look at it next year and see if we need to add more,” Pat said. “Even if it doesn’t pay for itself, it still has other benefits.”

Pat and Carolyn feel good about the legacy that they are leaving for their three children and six grandchildren. “It’s a value statement,” Pat said. “Being the first in our area wasn’t a big deal to us, but maybe it will mean something to the grandkids.”

When the first house received electricity in Cedar Key, he continued, it must have been exciting. And even though it was probably a slow start – it had to start somewhere, he said.

The Andersons’ home once belonged to Pat’s aunt, and they plan to continue to keep it in the family. “When our grandkids are here and our age, I think the whole island will be solar,” Pat said. “You take advantage of what you have – sunshine.”