A development of solar-powered homes in the shadow of The Villages in Lady Lake is growing, fueled by customer interest in energy-efficient homes with solar panels that cut their electric bills to almost nothing.
Green Key Village developer and builder Greg Thomas and his wife, Kim Thomas, of MainSail Solutions Inc., started building solar-powered homes in 2013 off Lake Ella Road in Lady Lake, guaranteeing buyers that their Key West-inspired homes were all equipped with solar collectors and energy-efficient features that would cut electrical costs to near zero.
Now the community has 18 homes occupied, all with Key West gingerbread-design touches, with porches and plantation shutters.
Green Key Village has expanded to 79 acres and submitted plans to Lady Lake to build an age-restricted development with 27 lots of smaller homes between 1,200 and 1,600 square feet, as well as a fourth phase of 21 lots similar to the all-age homes it has been building, said Thad Carroll, Lady Lake's director of Growth Management.
On March 10, Thomas filed for a permit with the St. Johns River Water Management District to make changes or modifications to Green Key's existing stormwater management system, to accommodate the new development.
Even before its plans to offer Villa-style homes for retirees, the development attracted older buyers looking for larger lots and a quieter location than the hyper-active lifestyle of nearby Villages residents, said Kim Thomas.
"They [former Villages residents] are close enough to keep their friends and still go to their favorite restaurants in The Villages, but live in a quieter place," she said.
The age-restricted homes will be built with their front porches facing a green space, and garages behind the homes.
The Green Key Village homes are inside a gated community with a small recreation area, a beach-entry pool, bath house, tennis court and pickle ball courts, and half a basketball court.
The Thomas' venture is financed by a Villages resident who is an expert in solar energy, who wanted to see a net-zero energy community built in Central Florida.
Sales were slow at first because the price-point is higher than other homes in the area, due to more detailed exterior designs and the solar panels. The homes are also certified Net Zero, which costs between $1,500 and $1,700 for the certification. Prices have started in the $350,000s and average in the $400,000s.
Greg Thomas grew up in the home-building industry as a Realtor and a builder in Orlando, but this is the first time the couple has developed a community, said Kim Thomas.