GOLDEN AGE: a time of great happiness, success, and achievement
Enter Florida solar. It is an exciting time for Florida solar, as new, innovative technologies abound like no other time in the state’s history. Happiness, success, and achievement all comprise Florida solar, and the good news is we are just getting started.
The term “Golden Age” sometimes refers to a period in Latin literature but goes even further back to describe Greek mythology. Ancient Grecians Hesiod and Plato expounded on the term as ages of man denoting success and prosperity. Today, Greece serves as one of the top nations in world solar. Although Greece’s current economy is far from a golden age, its solar market has more than done its share to improve conditions. In fact, Florida can learn a thing or two from Greece in the solar market, and we’ll take a look how later in the article. First, however, Florida’s own Golden Age.
During 2016, two ballot measures were voted upon by Florida voters. In August, Floridians voted overwhelming to pass Amendment 4, which dealt with solar tax exemptions for businesses. Amendment 4 was recently passed by the Florida Senate and will go into effect 2018 and last 20 years. Perhaps stirring more controversy was the proposal of Amendment 1, which was decided in the November election. Floridians flooded social media and outed the utility-backed bill in a close decision. Florida utilities were found to back the bill by approximately $30 million, but Florida voters were not fleeced. Floridians have profoundly stated through ballot measures that the power to choose solar power is in their own best interests, not utilities.
The passing of Amendment 4 and the defeat of Amendment 1 has created strong momentum for solar, ensuring a period of prosperity in the solar market for Floridians. Utilities will continue to fight, however, and Florida solar must remain vigilant. Ultimately, in order for a true solar Golden Age to occur in Florida, solar companies and utilities must work together to fulfill energy needs.
Florida enjoys several market initiatives as well. On the financial side, Florida’s PACE program is gaining steam. PACE, also known as property-assessed clean energy, is a finance program utilizing property taxes to help with up front costs for businesses and residents. The national program found its way into Florida in 2010, and it continues to grow and help Floridians choose solar; thousands have taken advantage of it since its state introduction.
Also on the financial side, Floridians have access to federal investment tax credit (ITC). I detail the ITC here. The ITC allows more Floridians to go solar by taking advantage of a 30% tax credit, making solar more bankable for Florida businesses and homeowners alike.
Another amazing market initiative is the concept of solar co-ops. Solar co-ops are new in Florida, but they have been met with overwhelming success. Two groups, FL SUN and the Florida League of Women Voters, have combined forces to employ community solar in Florida. Both organizations have been responsible for community solar via co-op in Saint Petersburg, and co-ops in Sarasota and East and West Broward Counties are ongoing as we speak.
A solar co-op is a group of homeowners in a defined geographic area who use their combined bulk buying power to save on the total cost of going solar. Solar installers face significant costs finding solar customers. By forming a group of interested buyers, co-op members can receive a significant discount because the group has done some of the work for the installer. Co-op members also have the benefit of working with a group and with FL SUN to help educate and guide them through the installation process.
As Florida installations increase, so does its workforce. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Florida solar jobs continue to rise, topping 8,000 workers in 2016 (up from 6,500 in 2015). SEIA also reports the following:
Price Declines: 64% over the last 5 years
Total Solar Investment in State: $1,430.15 million ($67.58 million in 2016)
Growth Projections and Ranking: 2,388 MW (megawatts) over next 5 years (ranks 6th nationally)
As aforementioned, there is a thing or two we can learn from Greece’s solar market. In an effort to spike their economy, Greece introduced feed-in tariffs to promote the solar market. Investopedia defines a feed-in tariff as “An economic policy created to promote active investment in and production of renewable energy sources. Feed-in tariffs typically make use of long-term agreements and pricing tied to costs of production for renewable energy producers. By offering long-term contracts and guaranteed pricing, producers are sheltered from some of the inherent risks in renewable energy production, thus allowing for more diversity in energy technologies.” Such a policy created a solar market boom in Greece that caused other policies and regulations to be enacted in order to sustain the market. Currently, several states offer feed-in tariffs for solar, such as California and New York. Both states are ahead of Florida regarding solar. Interestingly, Florida actually approved the nation’s first solar feed-in tariff in Gainesville, but has temporarily suspended the policy program. No utility actively offers the program in Florida. The Golden Age of Florida solar would certainly benefit from feed-in tariffs, as evidenced by front-running solar states California and New York.
The Golden Age of Solar is now, my fellow Floridians. Through ballot measures, market initiatives, an increased workforce, and declining prices, the Golden Age of Florida solar shines brighter each moment. The projections are encouraging, and more installations are occurring each day. Don’t let the Golden Age of Florida solar pass you by, the time to enjoy the prosperity is now!
Need more information on going green and ready to take the next step? We are here for you at Bay Area Solar Solutions LLC, where your solar needs come first!