It seems almost counter-intuitive that Florida should not be a leader – or at least be in the top ten – in the solar energy market.
Although Florida ranks third in the nation for solar potential, the state is ranked 13th for cumulative solar capacity installed. The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association attributes the low ranking to Florida’s solar policies lagging behind many other states in the nation. Specifically, the lack of a renewable portfolio standard and the State’s prohibition on power purchase agreements.
However, various projects and proposed laws seem to indicate that the solar winds seem to be changing in Florida for the better. There are several robust commercial projects, which promise to be significant on-site generators. The ongoing redevelopment of the Daytona International Speedway includes NextEra’s installation of more than 5,000 solar panels on speedway grounds. This 1.7 MW project will be one of the largest distributed solar installations in Florida. You can learn more here.
Another exciting development is a U.S. Navy/Air Force plan to partner with Gulf Power to build three new solar power plants in the Florida Panhandle. Read more here about this huge 120 MW project.
On the legislative front, various House and Senate Bills have been submitted to the Florida Legislature for consideration, which could ease some of the State’s restrictions on PPAs. These bills would allow certain producers to sell power directly to a restricted group of third parties without having public utilities act as intermediaries. House Bill 1077 and Senate Bill 1118 propose that existing law be modified to allow producers to sell to consumers located in the same parcel or building, or on parcels contiguous to the parcel, on which the energy is being produced. Such sales would not be deemed a retail sale of electricity and therefore would not subject the energy-producing business to regulation under Florida’s utility statute.
Similarly, the Florida Right to Produce and Sell Solar Energy Initiative, which proponents hope to see on the ballot in November 2016, seeks to amend Article X of the Florida Constitution to vest individuals and businesses with the constitutional right to produce up to two megawatts of solar power and sell that power directly to others at the same or contiguous property. Finally, House Bill 1227 seeks in part to remove the requirement that producers be connected to a public utility’s grid.
The solar opportunities are looking up in Florida, and 2015 could be the year that Florida finally realizes its solar potential.