Florida is well established as a major solar PV market. In 2021, the industry employed nearly 12,000 people in the state, along with 378 solar companies, most of which are installers and developers. In 2021, the state achieved a 41% year-over-year increase in installed rooftop solar capacity and surpassed 1 GW of total installed rooftop solar.
By the second quarter of 2022, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports a total of 9.5 GW of installed capacity to date. That’s enough electricity to power 1.1 million homes in Florida.
Still, in a state of more than 21 million people with abundant sunlight, Florida could take an even bigger step forward in solar deployment with supportive policies. It currently has no established renewable energy portfolio standard and does not allow third-party power purchase agreements. These are two policies that have successfully promoted solar construction in other states.
Despitethese policy shortcomings, Florida is expected to deploy significant amounts of utility-scale solar. SEIA predicts that 11 GW of solar could be installed over the next five years.
Perhaps the most important policy for residential solar is net metering. The process allows homeowners to sell excess solar power back to the grid in exchange for bill credits. Two main utilities, duke and FPLboth offer net metering programs.
Generally, when you increase the value of your home, it is reflected in your property tax assessment. But in Florida, like many other states, residential solar installations are exempt from property taxes.
Solar electricity is also exempt from sales tax in Florida, as established by the CHP Sales Tax Exemption, reflecting a 6% savings.
Florida installations are also eligible for the federal solar investment tax credit. The credit was recently extended under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 by 30% over the next decade. The tax credit applies to both solar and energy storage in combination or as separate technologies.
Homeowners interested in finding out about solar installers in their area can visit Solar reviews for customer feedback. The website also contains a calculator to estimate system size and expected bill savings.
Florida has been waging a political war over the past year, with environmentalists and rooftop solar advocates working to block a bill that would have gradually reduced the cost of net metering credits to nearly zero. After months of campaigning and political pressure, Governor Ron DeSantis failed to live up to expectations and vetoed House Bill 741.
Had account was signed by Gov. DeSantis, beginning in 2023, solar customer payments would regress from the retail rate to “avoidable costs” to utilities, a fraction of the current retail rate. The phase-out was planned to reduce the rates paid by solar consumers by 50% over four years and further decrease to an avoidable cost rate by 2029. The bill also provides for flat fees for grid-connected solar customers starting in 2026, with no cap on the flat fees specified in the bill text.
The bill was based on the rhetoric of “cost-shifting,” arguing that those who use their own energy raise the cost of services to those who do not, usually disproportionately economically. However, only about 90,000 of Florida’s 8.5 million electricity customers use solar panels. The utility claims that this 1% of Floridians creates significant costs for the other 99%. Research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that 40 of the 43 states and Washington, D.C., with net metering programs saw modest increases in the cost of solar energy.
In his veto, DeSantis described House Bill 741 as a burden in and of itself that would “contribute to the financial crisis that our citizens are experiencing.”
SEIA President Abigail Ross Hopper celebrated the result. “Florida is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the country with new businesses popping up across the state. This veto signals that Florida’s energy economy is open for business and that the rights of state residents must come before the interests of monopoly utilities,” she said.
A remarkable project
Duke Energy Florida announced this summer completed construction of the Fort Greene Renewable Energy Center, a 74.9 MW facility that will serve the utility’s Clean Energy Connection Plan, which allows Duke customers to select a designated amount of project capacity on their monthly bill. This is the first installation in Duke’s 750 MW solar deployment plan.
The facility was built on approximately 500 acres of land and consists of 265,000 panels mounted on a fixed-inclination racking system. At peak power generation, there is expected to be enough power for approximately 23,000 homes.
Residents and small/medium-sized businesses can join the new “community” solar program, the Clean Energy Connection. Applicants will be selected at random to become subscribers to the solar energy produced by the company’s photovoltaic system.
Under the program, customers can sign up for kilowatt units of power that are billed at $8.35 per kW. The utility said a customer with an average consumption of 1,000 kWh per month could sign up for about 5 kW to cover their energy needs.
The credit rate associated with a customer’s solar kWh “block” production will be $0.04/kWh for the first 36 months of the program, and then, beginning in the 37th month of continuous enrollment, the credit rate increases by 1.5% every year. The amount of credit on the account changes each month based on the actual solar energy produced, meaning that customer savings are tied to the successful production of the utility-owned solar installation.
Community solar offers the option of connecting to a carbon-free energy source for those without suitable rooftop space for PV. Community solar projects are typically smaller than utility-scale plants and connect to the local distribution layer rather than large-scale high-voltage transmission infrastructure. That program, Clean Energy Connection, supports the development and construction of solar panels owned by Duke Energy in Florida, the utility said.
“Bringing cleaner resources to the grid is important to our customers and our company,” said Melissa Seixas, president of Duke Energy Florida. “By signing up for the Clean Energy Connection program and supporting solar sites like this one, our customers are joining a community that is helping Florida move toward a cleaner energy future.”
This is our journey through the southeast, where we last stopped in the village Georgia. Next, we will work west across the country, starting first with 50 states of solar incentives Kentucky edition.
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