Is Mount Dora Florida’s Most Solar-Friendly City?


Known for its lake views, fine dining, charming shops, and small town ambiance, Mount Dora is also in the running for the most solar-friendly city in Florida.  Sound hard to believe?  Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Mount Dora’s quality public servants combine with friendly policy and a community that believes in the benefits of solar, and quickly makes its case for being an extremely solar-friendly, citizen-friendly, Florida-friendly city. Here’s how.

The average permitting time for solar energy projects varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but Mount Dora consistently turns their reviews around in 3-4 days.  While not a guarantee from the City, this pattern of performance has made residential and commercial solar experiences positive and served to reduce overall costs. This predictability allows local businesses like Optimus Solar to better predict workflow and supply chain needs.  Additionally, Mount Dora building officials have shown an appetite to learn and grow with the industry, making it fun and easy to work together to serve the needs of the community.

From a financial standpoint, the City of Mount Dora participates in a ‘traditional’ net-metering program, where power produced by the solar energy system is credited to the owner at the retail power rate.  However, going a step beyond this, any excess power produced is also automatically credited to the owner’s overall municipal utility bill (including water, etc,. because Mount Dora owns and runs its own electric utility).  This provides a consistent 12-month return to the system owner, helping to reduce their expenses.

These policies have recently proven extremely effective in incentivizing locals to go solar. For example, Optimus Solar operates a net-zero warehouse and office in the City, and has an effective utility bill of $10 per month across all services.  Additionally, due to its generous policy, a large commercial owner in the City has implemented a system with 108 solar panels, investing in the community, keeping money local, and providing a wonderful marketing story for the building’s tenants.

Mount Dora has built a rich history as a close-knit, caring community. This legacy is evident through the community’s current favorable approach to solar energy adoption, which will ensure that Mount Dora remains renown for its positive impact on residents, businesses and the state through its environmental policies.  The City has the further potential to save $2,000 per year per government vehicle by switching to EV’s. Once that transition inevitably occurs, residents will see an improvement in air quality, noise reduction, and further financial benefits in this pedestrian-based historic downtown corridor. Evidence would indicate that Mount Dora, self-proclaimed “Someplace Special” is indeed that, especially when it comes to solar.


Safe or Sorry? Solar Energy Systems and Hurricanes


In light of hurricane Dorian’s recent close call with Florida, Optimus Solar has been fielding questions regarding solar energy systems’ ability to withstand strong storm conditions.  It’s important to remember that like all building components, solar energy systems are subject to the Florida Building Code, permitting, and inspections.  More than that though, the technology, engineering, and installation techniques have moved the industry forward by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, and solar is safe to install on homes and businesses.

Generally in Florida’s non-coastal areas, solar energy systems are required to be designed, engineered and permitted to withstand 140 mph winds.  This means that if there is an issue with a properly-installed solar energy system from winds, chances are very high that there is more damage to the overall structure present. Optimus Solar advises all of our clients to add their solar energy system to their insurance policy so damages fall within claims made.

Many people ask us about the risks of roof-penetrating systems during major storms. We have good news for you on that front. Sloped Roof solar energy systems are attached by a series of ‘feet’ or brackets that penetrate the roof (asphalt shingle, metal, tile, slate) and affix, in most cases, to the truss chord under the roof deck. This installation creates an extremely-strong system capable of withstanding almost all hurricane-force winds that come inland in Florida.  Proper installation by professional installers at Optimus Solar ensure installation meets or exceeds engineered standards.

The technology in design has come so far that flat roofs now require few to no penetrations while complying with wind codes. Flat roofs use ballasted systems. The panels are held down by cradles containing weighted blocks.  When combined with wind guards and lower angles of install, these ballasted systems allow large-scale flat roofs to have solar energy systems installed without the need for roof penetrations.  This provides owners an extra level of peace of mind, knowing their roof remains intact for the life of the system.

Through advances in component design, quality engineering and code compliance, solar energy systems are safe during most storm conditions.  While extreme weather events may ultimately damage a solar energy system, solar does not increase storm risk when properly permitted and installed.

Historic Downtown Mount Dora Building Goes Solar with Optimus

Surveying the roof at 402 Donnelly

Surveying the roof at 402 Donnelly

Beginning the Solar PV installation on 402 Donnelly. Lake Dora in the background.

Beginning the Solar PV installation on 402 Donnelly. Lake Dora in the background.

The Optimus Solar team has spent the past few weeks prepping for and are excited to get working on a new commercial solar install in historic downtown Mount Dora. The building, located at the corner of 4th and Donnelly (402 Donnelly), was built in 1914 and is home to several iconic Mount Dora shops and eateries. The historic yellow brick building will now feature a 36kW solar energy system, which will offset a significant portion of the building’s energy consumption. The panels are being installed now and the system will begin producing power this month. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE: 8/8/19

The 402 Donnelly building is about halfway through the installation process and looking great! We can’t wait to flip the switch on this project. Check out some of the progress below.