Florida’s solar industry has always perplexed me.
The state’s nickname is the “Sunshine State” and yet, in the face of staunch utility opposition and low electricity prices, it lags behind other states in solar penetration. In fact, it doesn’t even make the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) list of top 10 solar states.
Nowhere is the disparity more apparent than in Florida’s commercial solar sector. With all of the strip malls, office buildings and other commercial roof space available, you’d think it would lead the industry but, as it is in the rest of country, commercial solar struggles to gain traction.
But that could all change TODAY.
That’s when Amendment 4 goes before Florida voters—a proposal that would “reduce taxes on solar panels, lowering the cost of energy for both homeowners and businesses,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. It would exempt solar panels from being included in property-tax valuations for commercial enterprises which, in conjunction with the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) and lower electricity bills (according to one business owner quoted in the story, his projected electricity bill will be reduced by 80% with his 1.5-megawatt array), could be an enormous windfall for Florida businesses.
The most recent group to join the fight for Amendment 4 is Florida Realtors, an organization that bills itself as “the voice for real-estate in Florida.” In a statement from the group, President Matey H. Veissi said Amendment 4 would “encourage Florida’s business community to invest in solar, which will expand the use of clean energy and reduce [Florida’s] reliance on fossil fuels. As the Sunshine State, Florida should be in the forefront of solar choice for businesses and consumers.”
Veissi couches her words carefully, but in saying Florida needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, she gets to the heart of the issue for Floridians. Although traditional electricity is cheap in the state, climate change is something all Floridians take seriously. For a state whose economy is largely driven by tourism, which is in turn driven by its beaches, the urgency of reducing carbon emissions is not lost on its residents.
I would add to Veissi’s cogent comments that Florida’s solar industry currently supports more than 6,000 jobs and has the potential to grow exponentially if Amendment 4 passes. And it has the support of 64% of Florida voters, according to a recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll. Currently, more than 130 organizations have endorsed the amendment including, oddly, the Florida Petroleum and Convenience Store Association When an organization involved in the petroleum industry supports a solar amendment, you know it’s important to the future of Floridians.
We’ll be watching today’s vote with great interest. After all, if it passes, the Sunshine State may finally find its solar footing—and that would be a great development indeed.
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