Solar panels installed on the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center’s roof.

Hillsborough County is teaming up with the nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) for the Hillsborough 2022 Solar Co-op, a free group to help residents and small businesses go solar. With the co-op, residents can get a group rate discount when purchasing solar panels.

The co-op is open through Sunday, July 31 and has a 125 member goal, which may increase if there’s enough demand. The discount depends on the number of people, going rate and vendor and deal chosen, which will be ironed out as a group with professional assistance from SUN.

“The nice thing about the co-op is that you know you’re going to get a really good rate because you do have that large group of people and SUN … handles all of that,” said Sheila McNamara, the county’s sustainability manager.

Going solar creates jobs and puts energy production and its benefits back in the hands of the people while contributing to cleaner air and water for everyone. Plus, with an average of over 200 sunny days each year, Florida’s a great place for gathering solar energy.

According to Hillary Zalla, media relations strategist with the county, since the inception of solar in Hillsborough, it has generated over 6 million kilowatt hours of solar energy and saved over $700,000, which is used to provide other needed programs and services and enable homeowners and businesses to spend on other needs. And since 2017, the co-op has helped over 600 resident participants, resulting in over 1 megawatt of solar installation on homes throughout the county.

By the end of 2022, the county will have installed solar panels at 28 county facilities, generating about 3,400 kW annually. These efforts are all part of the county’s mission of Net Zero Energy, using what you produce, and ceasing the use of fossil fuels.

McNamara said, “Going solar helps people save money, reduce and stabilize their expenses. Loan or cash, solar is reducing the amount of electricity you buy. It’s paying yourself and building wealth and investing in your home instead of giving your money to a utility.”

Also, there will be a Florida Solar 101 webinar on Thursday, June 23, as well as other information sessions — in person and virtual — in June and July, including Spanish and prerecorded ones.

For more information on Hillsborough 2022 Solar Co-op and how to sign up, visit For a webinar, select the ‘Events’ tab. You can also visit for sustainable living information.

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Taylor Wells
Taylor Wells is a relatively recently hired news reporter for the Osprey Observer, having been with the paper only since October 8, 2018. Aside from writing articles, he helps edit and upload them to the Osprey Observer site, and is always available to help other staff members in his spare time. He graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and lives in Valrico.