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Solar Energy & Regulatory Backwardness in The Sunshine State

Principal Research Scientist at the University of Central Florida Danny Parker wrote a 93-page report for Clean Technica exploring Florida's solar power industry. In this report – What About Florida? Energy Efficiency, Solar Energy & Regulatory Backwardness In The Sunshine State – he takes a deep dive into the policies and problems facing solar power in the Sunshine State.

The report looks into solar energy resources, hurricanes, electricity cost, and the average energy usage of homeowners in Florida. Parker examines the obstacles faced by solar power producers and the enormous potential for generating power from the sun in one of the sunniest states in the US. 

Parker also writes about utility planning, the decline of electricity demand, regulators who favor utilities, renewable energy performance standards (RPS), and what the future of energy in Florida will look like. 

Key takeaways:

 1 ) Florida utilities stifle home solar power and energy efficiency.

 2) Home solar power and energy efficiency can save you money and protect the environment.

Solar power in Florida is facing some significant obstacles. Parker investigates the stifling of the small-scale rooftop solar industry by major utilities in Florida. He also explores how these large utilities have manipulated regulators and policymakers. According to Parker, who has more than 30 years of experience working at the Florida Solar Energy Center, the major problem facing domestic solar power growth is the utilities, which are driven by the sole objective of making money.

The more efficient the technology, the less energy is used. Parker explores this by breaking down the typical energy use in a Florida home. He then examines how some of the policies and programs in Florida are anti-efficient, thereby favoring utility companies' profits rather than keeping electricity costs fair for consumers.

He found that proposed efficiency programs could “cut both kWh sales and revenue to the utilities.” These same plans would also go against the utilities’ justifications for building new electric-generating facilities – the very facilities that are key to utility profits. Parker writes: “Typically when built and approved, power plants are assured a rate of return on investment for the IOU [investor-owned electric utility] of about 11% whether or not the power is needed.”

Parker was not shy to call out FPL. He wrote about IOUs such as Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) – “Has FPL or the other IOUs in Florida obtained all the cost-effective energy efficiency available in the state? No, not by a long shot. (They’ve developed all the cost-effective efficiency for themselves and non-participants).”

Florida has huge potential for generating energy from rooftop solar power. In fact, it averages a whopping 2800 hours of sunlight a year. This could and should be harnessed to generate power. As shown by Parker in his report, allowing the home solar power industry's growth would be an efficient way to generate electricity. It would also cut the electricity cost to consumers. The fundamental blockage to this sensible development is Florida's utility corporations, which are focused on profits, controlling the regulators, and keeping smaller domestic solar power firms from helping both consumers and the environment.

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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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