A petition for a 2016 ballot measure in Florida has been launched that could give a big boost for solar power in Florida. This petition is momentous because even though Florida has a great deal of sunshine, there has been stiff political resistance to solar power. Consequently, Florida has been a solar power laggard when it could be a national leader. Interestingly, the petition was launched by Conservatives for Energy Freedom.
Property owners and business owners would be able to generate up to 2 MW of solar power using their own solar power systems that could be sold directly to other Floridians, if the petition has enough signatures to become a ballot measure (it needs nearly 700,000) and then enough votes to pass (60% of the votes or more).
Imagine people creating their own solar power and being able to sell it in the free market, with no utilities involved. Creative entrepreneurs and solar power system owners with an entrepreneurial bent might really run with such a new freedom. In point of fact, having such freedom might create something of a new market space, in addition to the opportunity for small solar power operators to recoup the cost of their rooftop systems even faster than is possible at this moment.
As it stands now, solar power owners can pay off the cost of their systems by saving money each year that they would have paid to a utility company for electricity. So, for a $20,000 system, it might take about eight years to pay back that cost, when combined with incentives like rebates, refunds, or tax breaks.
Net metering does allow small solar power operators to sell their excess electricity back to the grid in exchange for credits from utility companies. These credits are applied to utility bills, so when electricity is used from the grid as a supplement, the credits can cover that cost, or most of it.
However, if small solar power operators could sell their excess electricity in an open market directly to their tenants, neighbors, city, school district, or local businesses, they would have more freedom to sell for money and not only receive credits. They also might be able to sell at a higher rate and generate more income for themselves.
Democrats, generally speaking, support renewable energy, so it isn’t surprising that this new petition is looked on favorably by them in Florida.
“I think the people understand that … the power companies have been running the show in Florida for too long. I’m very excited and happy they’re doing it,” explained Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.
However, some Republicans there are also behind it. In fact, it was launched by conservative group Conservatives for Energy Freedom. Tory Perfetti is a Tampa resident and Republican that supports the petition. Tea Party leader Debbie Dooley has had some success in pushing for solar in her home state of Georgia, so she is working with Perfetti in Florida to help the solar cause.
Florida has enough sunshine that it could become a national leader in solar power, if only the political mindset could shift. This kind of change, in some cases, is more difficult than improving technology and creating favorable economics. The cost of solar panels has dropped very much in the last six years, so solar power has never been more affordable.
Georgia’s utility and conservative element was much more resistant until recently, but has accepted solar more in the form of new power plants only using solar panels.
Hopefully, Florida will wake up to the fact it is wasting a golden opportunity to capitalize on a free, clean, natural resource.
Image: Marc Avarette