No Name Key residents Bob and Kathy Brown started what they hope is a trend June 28 on the now-commercially electrified island off Big Pine Key.
Less than a month after Keys Energy Services hooked the first No Name home up to the grid following extended court battles, the Browns became the first homeowners there to sell energy back to the Lower Keys utility.
The couple signed up for Keys Energy's "renewable energy net-metering" option, which has been offered since 2008. It involves the installation of a special meter that monitors consumption and energy sold back to the utility when more is produced than used.
"I think that I've actually sold some back, which is amazing considering the heat," Kathy Brown said.
She's president of the No Name Key Property Owners Association, which has long sought commercial power on the island. The group's contentious struggle with the island's solar proponents, who had fought against commercial electricity, officially ended when Brad and Beth Vickrey's house was connected to the grid on May 29.
Brown says she filled out a series of documents that involve certifying the system is up to code and that all its components work together with the grid. Keys Energy reviewed the system and issued her a contract, she said.
Bob and Kathy Brown purchased their No Name property in 1989, the same year as another solar power enthusiast, Dan Morris. They each built homes and received certificates of occupancy in 1990.
"It's very exciting. We bought our property here with the Morrises and that's always been our goal," Kathy said, referring to solar net metering.
She added that readily available electricity, as opposed to using just solar and generators, has been a big change and takes some getting used to.
"You wake up and [first thing], you see if the house is still on and check how many amp hours you have in the batteries to see what you can and can't do. I keep doing that, but I don't have to," Brown said. "It's so much less stressful, but we're all staying conscious of limiting our usage."
According to Monroe County Senior Planner Emily Schemper, the county has issued 13 electrical permits to No Name residents and one more has submitted an application that's under review. There are 43 homes on No Name.
Keys Energy spokesman Julio Barroso said that as of July 3, the utility had connected 11 homes to the grid.
Barroso says net-metering allows Keys Energy to buy back excess energy produced by privately owned renewable energy systems within its service area. The Browns became the 29th Keys Energy customer to sign up for net-metering. They produce an estimated 250,000 kilowatt hours of power annually.
"While renewable energy systems are not yet affordable for all, [the] net-metering option is helping to ease the transition as customers go green," said Keys Energy General Manager Lynne Tejeda. "One of the main benefits of the electrification of [No Name Key] is that those customers can now sell back any excess power they produce on their renewable energy systems -- and we in turn can share that power with our other customers."