NewsPinellas County


Making solar energy affordable for front line workers

Posted at 4:27 PM, May 18, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As the temperature continues to climb, so do utility bills. There is an organization that’s helping the front line heroes of this pandemic get a cheaper option.

On any given day, Mark Stanhope could handle at least a half a million pieces of mail for the U.S. Postal Service. During the pandemic, he’s seen that number dramatically increase.

“At the post office, I’m a mail handler which means I run a fork lift, actually move carts of mail on and off trucks that bring mail to and from our processing plant in Tampa,” said Stanhope. “It almost feels like Christmas time because we have been very busy.”

Outside the post office, there is a banner that says “Heroes Work Here.”

“If you are going to be called a hero, you better be a hero,” said Stanhope. “You work hard, you make sure you do your best. You make sure you get your packages to the people who need them. You respect the packages you respect people’s products.”

Despite the accolades at work, at home in St. Pete Mark is just trying to pay his bills. So he looked into solar panels.

“It was something I really wanted, I went through like eight or nine different companies, but I couldn’t get the financing that would work,” said Stanhope.

That’s when he heard about the Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF), and before he knew it, solar panels were lining his roof.

“Our customers are generally low-to-moderate income families who do not have a lot of financing options available to them,” said Annie Vanek-Dasovich, with SELF.

The non-profit community lender helps with a variety of energy efficient upgrades, including air conditioners, insulation and wind mitigation.

“People are home more than they have been before, using way more energy than they have been before. And now, they are really affected by the cost of electricity,” said Vanek-Dasovich.

Stanhope is just glad blue collar, essential workers, like himself can save money and energy too.

“Its almost like you have to be rich to have solar but SELF makes it so everyone can have solar,” said Stanhope.

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