The Solar Energy Industries Association ranks Florida third in the US for rooftop solar potential but 12th for installed capacity. Less than 100 Florida households have solar panels, a miniscule figure for a state with a population of more than 20 million. Currently, less than 1% of Florida’s electricity generation is from solar.
Renewable energy sources exist in Florida, make no mistake. It comes in many forms, not just solar. But for a state blessed with so much sunshine, the lack of solar panels does seem rather puzzling to the outsider.
Less Sunshine, More Solar
Ironically, these figures are a stark contrast to many of the less sunshine-blessed states, including New York, where solar usage has recently increased 800%. Jim Kallinger, chairman of the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition claims that Florida’s cheap electricity ratesare a factor keeping solar from taking hold:
“It’s hard for solar PV (photovoltaic energy) to compete with other energy sources.”
New York residents are happily receiving state and local tax incentives and also enjoying ever decreasing cost of installations. Meanwhile, solar companies in many states will lend installations to homeowners and then sell the homeowners the cheap power they generate. This isn’t permitted in Florida, neither is it permissible to sell the power generated by rooftop solar to tenants or neighbors. Kallinger commented:
“In other states, you have the government intervening more, but here we have pushback against that sort of thing.”
At present, more Americans are employed installing and maintaining solar panels than there are working in the oil and gas sectors combined.On face value, creating jobs would seem like a good thing. Justin Hoysradt, chief executive of the West Palm Beach companyVinyasun observes:
“Places like New York, Massachusetts and California have recognized the jobs and environmental benefit of solar. We have more of a challenge.”
Florida Power and Light
While it may seem that solar power is strangely non-existent in Florida and that the other states are leaving us for dead in the “renewable energy” stakes, solar has actually been around here for a while.
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power and Lightremarkedrecently: “FPL has been leading the smart, cost-conscious expansion of solar in Florida since we built our first solar power plant back in 2009.”
FPL presently serves around 10 million people and recently announced plans to build eight more power plants, and also other local schemes, by 2018. FPL claimed that the plants built last year harnessed enough solar electricity to power 15,000 homes. The goal for next year is an ambitious 120,000 homes.
While it may seem a little intriguing to those who come from places where renewable energy is the latest buzz that the sunshine state doesn’t tap into its sunshine as readily as others, all that could change very quickly. PV installations are getting cheaper, fossil fuels are getting rarer, and policy makers change out like the phases of the moon.
One day soon… who knows…boom…solar panels from Pensacola to Miami.