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Seeking Solar Power and Going Off-Grid after Hurricane Irma

Photo: NASA
NASA's first large-scale solar power generation facility at Kennedy Space Center.

Hurricane Irma cut a swath of blackouts through Florida, from the Keys to multiple counties across the peninsula. An estimated 4.4 million people were without power as days became weeks. That's led some Floridians to consider turning to renewable energy like solar power, installing large-scale battery backups at home, and keeping solar contractors busy as more residents think about going "off the grid" to power their homes.

Two new cooperatives formed post-Irma in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties aim to share the costs of getting solar power wired into home. But the costs and technology to go fully off the electrical grid, and the realities of relying purely on renewables, aren't trivial. Solar contractors say they're seeing demand for new solar installations, but also confusion about what's possible and what's well-suited to Florida's unique weather conditions. 

Dominick Zito, co-owner of the Florida Solar Design Group, talks about the realities and fantasies of going off the grid and what's possible for homes in Southwest Florida.
Also joining the conversation is retired solar power advocate and author Neville Williams, discussing how solar-powered water pumps and other resources could have alleviated some of the painful shocks of Hurricane Irma and other disasters, and what needs to change in Florida to better harness solar energy on a large scale.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.