Over ten years in the making, a solar panel installation project finally broke ground at the Oak Hammock Retirement Community.
Tuesday morning, installation crews secured the project’s first solar array, which houses 24 of the 682 solar panels expected to line the community rooftops.
After a year-long bidding process, the resident-led project team settled on Solar Impact, a solar energy company in Gainesville which started in 2007, to provide the panels.
The project costs Oak Hammock about $603,000. But the project team estimates the panels will save the community $50,000 a year on energy bills, which is about a 9% return on investment, according to an Oak Hammock press release.
While residents had been lobbying for solar energy at Oak Hammock for years, the formal project didn't start until February 2017.
Once the plan gained more traction, John Paul, a longtime Oak Hammock resident, and UF engineering alumnus, joined the resident committee for solar power. Alongside two other resident engineers, Paul started to research the technical and financial aspects of moving to solar energy at the retirement community.
In 2019, the team started looking for vendors that met the community’s needs.
“It took a long time to even get to that point,” Paul said. “We had to educate ourselves in a new technology, to some of us.”
The project team reached out to old contacts made during their engineering work, collecting information from the Florida Department of Energy and the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa. These contacts played a significant role in developing the project cost model.
“I'm a resident here; I pay the bills,” Paul said. “Any savings, I more than welcome.”
(Article Written by Jack Prator July 21, 2021 - the Gainesville Sun)