It took a long time for Florida to get there, but now that they’ve settled some of the biggest policy issues facing solar in the state, the solar industry is finally getting its chance to shine as brightly as the Florida sun.

In the competition for which city will be the most progressive with its solar policy, only time will tell who will come in first. But from our perspective, as we watch the market from our winter-besieged Maryland offices, the city bounding into the lead at the quarter pole is Jacksonville.

What has provided the First Coast city with the advantage is twofold:

  • a municipal utility that understand the power of solar to transform the way it delivers electricity to its customers; and
  • the willingness of its mayor and city council to step out on a limb in their pursuit of their solar dream.

The two different-but-related arms of government have one thing in common: They both believe in the power of partnerships.

In building its solar portfolio, the city has partnered with companies to build, operate and maintain their projects. They, in turn, pay the companies money over a long-term contract to produce solar electricity—a power source internal surveys have indicated their customers want.

These partnerships allow the city to provide its citizens with solar electricity without having to take on the burden of financing and/or constructing solar projects, nor do they have to spend the time and money to train their own employees to run a solar plant. They can turn all those concerns over to outside companies that already has the experience and personnel to handle the complexities of utility-scale solar.

And for the mayor and city council, I just have two words: Well. Done.

There is often a cutthroat competition when a big potential employer comes to town asking, essentially, what cities can do for them. In so many cases, the city mortgages its future in the hopes the investment will pay off with new jobs and future investment in their citizens. And so often, infighting between differing factions in city governments causes those possible deals to go south.

That was definitely not the case as Jacksonville courted a major module manufacturer. The city council and the rest of the administration partnered with the state government to put together an overwhelming package of incentives ($54 million, by most reports). And the hard work paid off—the company confirmed that it was finalizing negotiations to build a new factory and U.S. headquarters in the city.

Jacksonville’s willingness to recognize the areas where they are experts and—more importantly—where they are not has fueled their obvious solar success. Instead of building everything from scratch, the city is wise enough to find partners that can add their expertise to the process. It’s the same strategy we employ at Standard Solar when we approach solar projects.

As much knowledge and expertise as we have, we can’t know everything. So for projects where local knowledge is important or site-specific conditions require a local touch, we find the right partners so we can do what we do best—serve our clients and provide the means for them to reach their solar dreams.

We hope for the Sunshine State’s sake, other Florida cities follow Jacksonville’s example and find the partners they need to build out the solar infrastructure in the state. There’s so much potential there, it would be a shame to see it go to waste.