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60 Minutes: Bahamas Installing Solar Power After Storms

Story originated from a 60 Minutes Special: A tiny country in "Hurricane Alley" is trying to be an example to the world after Category 5 storms demolished parts of its electrical grid. Bill Whitaker reports on the Bahamas' adoption of solar energy. 

The Bahamas might be small, but they are strong. Prime Minister Minnis' hopes the new "green" islands will set an example for the world. The goal is to use solar arrays to produce 30% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. 

Currently, the Bahamian government spends nearly $400 million a year on imported diesel fuel just to keep the power running. This is 3x to 4x more expensive than what the U.S. mainland pays for electricity. And this inherent expense is passed on to the countries citizens. During the summer months, importing fuel can be a logistical challenge due to bad weather and often becomes scarce.

New solar array micro-grids and systems will still feed into the grid and help reduce the cost of imported diesel fuel over time.

The price of renewable's has come down significantly to the point where they are very competitive with diesel. And in most cases, way cheaper than diesel. The key game changer is battery storage, which enables the solar systems to produce electricity even when the sun is not shining.. The cost has decreased over 60% in the last 5 years. 

Solar arrays and micro-grids are the greatest contribution to help solve the global climate crisis. But more importantly, the system architecture is beginning to show value during natural disasters. 

For example, Puerto Rico was struck by a series of earthquakes in January and the entire islands big grid was shut down for days. However, the solar micro-grids installed on schools kept supplying uninterrupted power.

Renewable's and micro-grids are the future of energy. This system architecture can be applied on a large scale anywhere in the world. Though it makes the most sense in the Caribbean, California and Florida.  

The Bahamas understands the urgency of converting to renewable energy and has an incredible outlay to rebuild the devastated islands. Unfortunately, there are huge economic obstacles to overcome. Losses from Hurricane Dorian equal nearly 30% of the countries annual GDP. They simply cannot afford to bring on a new form of clean electrical generation.

Despite the huge economic obstacles, Minnis believes first world nations and their pollution are partly responsible for the increase in veracity and velocity in natural disasters impacting the Bahamas. He feels the islands contribution to climate change in comparison to countries like the U.S. is minuscule, but the Bahamas still have a responsibility. 

Click here to see the original CBS News story and video

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can FPL or my HOA prevent me from switching to solar?

The Florida Solar Rights Act is a law that forbids any entity—including homeowner associations—from prohibiting the installation of solar or other renewable energy devices on Florida buildings.

An association may require approval of a system installation and may establish restrictions for installations. However, any such restrictions must be reasonable, not arbitrary, and applied in a uniform manner for all association members. Also, any restrictions must not have the effect of impairing the performance, or increasing the cost, of a solar system.

In particular, a homeowner association may not prevent the installation of solar collectors on the roof of a home. The association may determine where on the roof the collectors may be installed, so long as the collectors face within 45 degrees of due south.

Finally, any requirement(s) that a system be screened from view by trees, fences, ground mounting racks, or a remote roof location that is hidden from the street, will generally violate the statute.

Click here to verify information is provided by the Florida Solar Energy Industry Association

Is solar free for Florida homeowners?
  • The sun is free to everyone.
  • Solar panels and specific back-up battery systems qualify for a number of rebates, tax credits and incentives.
  • There is a cost associated with solar energy because you are paying for your system. 
  • Financing enables homeowners to make the transition with $0 upfront costs
  • Systems often cost the same amount monthly as your current FPL bill
  • Solar puts equity in your home because you own the system and increases the value a minimum of 4.1% - click here for the Zillow case study

Does solar increase my home value?

Not only can adding solar panels to a home save energy costs and help the environment, it also can potentially increase a home’s value. In 2019 Zillow found that homes with solar energy systems sold for 4.1% more on average than comparable homes without solar power. For the median-valued home, that translates to an additional $9,274.

The sale premium varies substantially by market. In Riverside, Calif., for example, homes with solar-energy systems sold for 2.7% more than comparable homes without solar power—a markup of $9,926 for the median-valued home in the metro. In the greater New York City metro, solar-powered homes have a premium that is double that of Riverside. At 5.4%, that’s an extra $23,989 in value for the typical home in New York. In three other coastal metro areas—Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando, Fla.—homes with solar power can fetch a premium of around 4%.

Sun travels 91 million miles to power your home-1

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