ENGLEWOOD — Juergen Kroos and his wife Katharina recently installed solar panels on the roof of their home on Eden Drive and now they’re living in a green Eden, they say.
One set of solar panels is for their electrical needs, the other for heating water. The couple drives hybrid cars and grows an assortment of 50 fruits and vegetables from pineapples to mangos in their garden.
Juergen, originally from East Germany, is an Englewood resident of 25 years and wants to know why more don’t live green.
“I installed 22 solar panels on my roof to produce electricity,” Juergen said. “When I produce too much, it goes back into the grid that FPL pays for.”
The panels, which cost $28,000 to install, have only been on the roof a short while, not long enough for the Krooses to know how much they will save. Before, the Krooses paid $150-$180 a month for electricity. Juergen was told by FPL that he should save about 75-80 percent on his bill.
Kroos said none of his neighbors or friends in the area are going green.
“Americans don’t care,” he said. “They can afford (to live green), but choose not to. I don’t understand why others don’t do it.”
But Kroos is not alone.
According to Neil Nissan of FPL, there are 2,054 customers in 35 counties covered by FPL who use solar net metering including 312 customers in Sarasota County and 87 in Charlotte County.
Beth Cantin is vice president of Cantin Builders in Port Charlotte and president of the Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association. She said a 5 kilowatt standard solar electrical unit costs $20,000 to $30,000 and produces about $90 a month in savings for an average home.
“Many homeowners generally don’t see enough of a return of investment to get one,” Cantin said. “I feel the future of solar energy is going to be similar to computers. Costs will go down as demand goes up and you’ll see one in everyone’s home.”
Cantin said one of the requirements for alternative energy to succeed is the market has to be more competitive or it won’t get better.
“Every alternative energy source has its own issues,” Cantin said. “Petroleum is what we know.”
Cantin said she’s seeing more demand for solar pool heaters.
Aaron Fields, an owner of Advance Solar and Spa, says business is thriving and will continue to do so as the technology becomes more viable. The company services air conditioning and alternate energy users in Charlotte and Sarasota counties.
“We’re having a great season,” Fields said. “Solar pool heating is our biggest sales out here especially this time of year.”
The company has 15 solar installations in Englewood in 2012 to date, 20 in 2011, 13 in 2010 and 22 in 2009.
“Prices (for solar electric units) have come down more than we have ever seen,” Fields said. “What was once $80,000 five years ago is now going for about $45,000. You still get your 30 percent federal tax credit.”
While there are benefits for homeowners to adopt solar energy, Fields said Florida is not doing enough to promote it.
“Not everybody has the kind of money,” Fields said. “You look at states like New Jersey, Colorado, and California. They have thriving solar energy businesses to get the grid to a manageable place.”
FPL offers a solar net metering program for customers to contribute energy and save costs using alternative energy. Customers foot their own bills setting up their units and later receive a rebate from FPL.
“They make energy and they understand that they need solar systems out there to reduce the needs and demands during the middle of the day during the summer when air conditioners are all on,” Fields said.
For more information on solar net metering, go to http://www.fpl.com/ residential/savings/ net_metering/nm_lightbox_faqs.shtml or call FPL at 305-387-6614.