Nestled across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in Madeira Beach is a new eco-village that features seven net-zero energy homes powered by SolarCity panels.

  • New site in Madeira Beach features seven solar powered homes
  • SolarCity says the site is one of many such neighborhoods that will appear in Tampa Bay in the coming years

“Net zero energy means that the homeowner […] is not going to consume any energy from the utility companies,” said SolarCity's operations manager Nathan Traynor. “These homes are extremely efficient.”

According to Traynor, each home has 16 solar panels that can produce more energy than the homeowner needs.

“When they’re not using that energy it’s going to be fed back into the grid,” he said. “For every kilowatt hour you feed back into the grid you get full credit back from the power company.”

Net metering provides that energy credit and Traynor said the big utilities want Amendment 1 to pass in November so they can limit it.

“We don’t want Amendment 1 to pass,” he said. “That would give more power to the utility companies to control net metering in Florida.”

Instead, solar power companies want voters to pass Amendment 4 during the August 30 primary.

“We want everybody to vote yes on Amendment 4,” Traynor said. "What it’s going to do is open more doors for more solar power to be installed.”

On average, a 4,000 watt system will cost about $15,000 to purchase and install, according to Traynor. Homeowner Daniel Szuwala said the cost of his SolarCity system was included in the purchase price for his 2,000 square foot home.

“It was around $400,000,” he said. “It’s a long term investment.”

Szuwala said he moved into the eco-village about two weeks ago and enjoys checking his app to see how much energy he’s using.

“It calculates how much you’re saving,” he said. “Everybody constantly walks by and asks about the house and the solar panels.”

Traynor said more eco-villages will be popping up around Florida this year.

“There’s another one going up in Dunedin and that one is a townhomes project. […]There’s one going in Port St. Lucie,” he said. “Pretty soon there’ll be one in Panama City. There’s a big one in Tampa.”

The Eco Village in Tampa is called Waterset and will feature 500 net-zero energy homes. Traynor said a model is scheduled to be built by the fall.