17 May

Why the “Sunshine State” Ranks so Low in Solar Development

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            As a Florida-based solar company, Clean Footprint dreams of the day when the “Sunshine State” is a leader in solar development. Florida currently ranks 3rd in the US for solar potential, but ranks 13th for installed solar capacity. It seems common sense that a flat, sunny state should be taking full advantage of its abundant solar resources. However, there is more to the story than just warm weather and sunny days.

            The main obstacle for solar development in Florida is the law. Currently Florida is one of only five states that prohibit anyone who is not a public utility to sell electricity directly to a consumer. This can also be referred to a third-party solar, and is the case with a power purchase agreement. The law only allows utilities to sell electricity. While this does not forbid the sale of solar itself, it does make it complicated for both companies that want to sell solar electricity and for consumers who want to lease solar. Consumers are allowed to privately purchase solar and have it installed on their roof but this option is not only expensive but more risky.

            Another obstacle for solar development in Florida is the lack of a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS). A typical RPS requires that some percentage of all electricity generated by each utility come from renewable sources on or before a deadline. For example it might require 20% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources, by the year 2020. Other states use these standards to urge utilities to install solar, and other renewable technologies. Without a standard, utilities are not mandated to use any renewable energy sources.

            Even without the RPS, the majority of new solar development in Florida is for large utility-scale solar arrays. The utilities install solar and then sell the electricity produced to the consumers. This provides the consumers with a clean, renewable energy source, but they have no control over when, where, and how much. Although this is beneficial to the state and environment, it does not directly benefit the consumers.     

            On the other end of the spectrum, states such as Massachusetts have local and state incentives and rebates set in place to make solar energy more affordable. Florida does have some of these incentives, but nowhere near the magnitude of other states. As the solar development revolution continues and solar prices drop, there will be more and more demand for solar energy. For states like Florida, this change may prove difficult if the state does not only allow financing though PPAs, but also introduce a RPS. Florida consumers are already on board, as seen by the formation of Floridians for Solar Choice, a “grassroots citizens’ effort to allow more homes and businesses to generate electricity by harnessing the power of the sun.” With the citizens fighting hard to allow third party solar, hopefully the state will be on board soon too.

Eliza Porter

Eliza Porter

Eliza is the Chief Learning Officer for Clean Footprint. As the Chief Learning Officer, she is responsible for writing and editing blogs, e-books, videos and white papers as well as other learning content created for Clean Footprint’s developer partners and clients. Eliza attended New York University in Paris, France and studied Global Liberal Studies before moving to Florida and joining the Clean Footprint team. She also studied Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Central Florida.