Welcome to a new initiative by Florida Audubon to feature stories of Floridians who are acting in their personal lives and businesses to solve climate change and lessen its impacts on birds, wildlife, our state’s special places, and our economy.
|John holds an endangered Kemps Ridley turtle. During the cold snap last January, John and his neighbors helped rescue the stunned sea turtles. He said, “more than 1,700 turtles were rescued from St. Joseph Bay by ordinary people like me, along with folks from Gulf World and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. We loaded them in trucks to get them to Gulf World so they could revive in heated pools there.” More than 80 percent of the turtles survived and were returned to the wild. Photo by Penny Weining.
Your stories are a powerful means of inspiring positive change. We welcome you to contribute your observations of the impact of climate change on birds and their habitats, and on what you are doing to contribute solutions. Your experiences can be shared in words, pictures and video. By doing so, you will be helping to build a living record of what Floridians are doing to protect our environment and economy. To send your story or schedule an interview, please write today to Florida Audubon’s Climate and Communications Director Traci Romine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Stories for Real Climate Solutions:
John Ehrman to Sell Energy Back to the Grid
John Ehrman, 58, is not a politician, lobbyist or lawyer. He has no hidden agendas or shadowy alliances with Texas oil men. John is a straightforward, retired civil engineer, who worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, he retired and settled into the dream home he built in Cape San Blas, a beautiful, relatively undeveloped area in the northwest Florida Panhandle.
John is also a man who acts on his convictions. He assisted in design and installation of a photovoltaic rooftop solar system for his home, using state-of-the art solar technology. “I’ve always been an advocate of alternative energy sources and I wanted to have back up power in case of hurricanes,” he said. “But my main reason for doing this is climate change. In the whole scheme of things, we’re using this fossil fuel, which is really ancient technology and we don’t need it. We have other sources that are so much less polluting, and essentially free once you put in the hardware. Solar is a never-ending source of energy.”
|The view of the bay from St. Joseph Peninsula near John’s home. “I hate the thought of seeing oil rigs on the horizon as future generations watch the sun setting in the Gulf of Mexico, or tar balls on the sugar white sands,” he said.
Once the design for John’s panels was complete, installation of the system was relatively rapid, just a couple of weeks. And because environmental and energy advocates were successful in achieving net metering policies in state energy law, John will be able to start selling his surplus power back to the electrical grid. He expects to have his inverter and firmware installed, and the kinks worked out, in a couple of weeks.
“I use between 12 and 15 kWh a day and I’ll have a surplus of 5 kWh per day to sell back,” John said. “My house is very well insulated. The key is to build a home that is energy efficient, using energy saver appliances, a tankless water heater, and things like that to decrease your power need. Your solar system will fully power your house or a good percentage of it and send the surplus back to grid.”
Once the system is working optimally, John expects to cover his full home power usage. For now, his electrical bills are significantly lower than other friends who do not have solar systems. During the cold winter when folks in his area were paying close to $200 a month, John’s bill never topped $110.
The federal tax credit and state rebate were incentives for John to install the system. He’s received his federal credit, though the state rebate has been slower in coming. If he does receive the state rebate, the system will pay for itself in a couple of years. If not, due to state backlog in applications, it may take longer to realize a return on his investment.
|John’s home in Cape San Blas. Photo by John Ehrman
Some of the myths used to push back against passing strong state policy to build a robust renewable energy market, with strong targets to expand solar energy supply in Florida, are that the sunshine state is too cloudy and that hurricanes can blow panels off of rooftops.
“Hurricanes are not an issue,” John said. “My panels are tested for 150 mph winds, and they are clamped onto the ridges on the roof along the metal seam. The whole roof would have to blow off before those panels would come off.”
As for the claim that solar power is unreliable, John shared that solar powers his home on average between 4 and 5 hours per day, including cloudy and rainy days.
Renewable Jobs in Florida
John’s experience demonstrates how solar and renewable energy produce good, clean local jobs in Florida. “I had 5 electricians on the job for two weeks while they were installing the panels, and all the wiring,” he said. “They were local people from Port St. Joe and were very happy to get the job.”
Standard Renewable Energy, the company that provided the system, was recently acquired by GridPoint and is based in Destin. “They were very pleased to come out here to do the installation.” One unfortunate aspect of his project was that the solar panels had to be shipped in from China.
“Florida is so far behind. If we had the right state policies, Florida could be manufacturing solar panels right here,” he said. “We need to step up to the bat, especially with our renewable resources here. We’re the sunshine state—let’s use it.”