Florida is providing solar thermal water systems to seven households in Jacksonville as part of 150 that will be delivered to residents in underserved communities throughout the state. Named Front Porch Sunshine, Florida is the first in the nation to install solar energy technology in weatherized, low-income homes.Jacksonville, Florida – February 24, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] “Energy conservation protects the environment and saves money,” said Florida Governor Jeb Bush. “Extending the environmental and economic benefits of conservation to Florida’s neediest citizens improves our quality of life and strengthens our communities.” Solar electric (photovoltaic) systems often get all the press but solar thermal systems offer many benefits at far less cost. The reliable, low-maintenance solar systems mounted on roofs use the sun’s energy, instead of electricity, to heat water. A traditional water heater serves as a backup supply of hot water on overcast or rainy days. “The Department of Community Affairs is proud to be a part of this collaborative effort,” said Department of Community Affairs Secretary Colleen Castille. “By providing weatherization and energy-savings opportunities to our residents, families that need it most are able to minimize their energy bills and dedicate their financial resources to other important items in their monthly budgets.” The Florida Energy Office, Florida Solar Energy Center and Florida Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation established a partnership with Front Porch Florida, a program launched by Governor Bush in 1999 to revitalize low-income neighborhoods, to improve energy efficiency of homes in designated communities throughout the State. State agencies are assisting 20 designated neighborhoods with community-driven initiatives for economic growth, education and environmental preservation. “Florida enjoys extensive sunshine throughout the year,” said Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs and Energy Allan Bedwell. “Harnessing the power of the sun is clean, free and expands energy savings to Florida’s underserved communities.” As a part of its Solar Incentive Program, JEA (formerly the Jacksonville Electric Authority) is providing US$1,200 for each solar system installation in the Sherwood Forest Front Porch Community. The funding will allow the Front Porch Sunshine program to reach more homes across the state. “I am thrilled the Sherwood Forest Front Porch community is benefiting from this groundbreaking program,” said Patricia West, Director of Florida’s Office of Urban Opportunity. “Bringing the power of solar energy to our communities is a wonderful way for residents to take advantage of this successful collaboration between the Department of Community Affairs, Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Solar Energy Center and community partners.” One of Florida’s newest Front Porch communities, Sherwood Forest was designated October 16, 2002. The goal of the more than 34,000 residents is to provide affordable housing for its low income and elderly residents, accessible transportation and better child care facilities. The residents are also striving to reduce crime and expand economic growth and development.