Solar Power Southeast

We’ve traveled 651 miles into the heart of the Deep South to attend the Solar Energy Industries’ Association (SEIA) Solar Power Southeast Conference. As Standard Solar continues our expansion into this region, we look forward to working with the other players and discovering more exciting things going on in the region.

What we do know is this: Solar is spreading like wildfire in states all up and down the southern East Coast.

Take North Carolina, for example. The industry in that state has been growing at an impressive rate, rocketing it to No. 4 on the list of Top 10 Solar States published by SEIA. With the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in question and an understanding of the impact the industry is having on his state, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a one-year extension to the Solar Tax Credit (STC), allowing that industry to flourish and reach self-sustainability. Legislators are also taking notice of solar’s positive impact. A recent bill introduced in the House, The Energy Freedom Act, would allow solar leasing in the state. If passed, solar will grow even faster in North Carolina in the years to come.

The state making the most noise right now is the one we are in—Georgia (the conference is taking place in Atlanta). Part of what’s driving its solar growth is how quickly the utilities in the state have jumped on the solar bandwagon. Georgia Power, Southern Co. and Dominion have all gone all-in on solar, with the goal of owning the generating assets and making solar part of its business model in the future.

But here’s why we’re excited and think the growth will continue. In April, the legislature passed The Solar Power Free Market Financing Act of 2015 (HB 57), which allowed solar leasing in the state. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law any day now. When he does, consumers will be able to install solar with no upfront costs. Georgia industry insiders believe this bill alone will cause the rapid expansion of solar installations.

We never thought we’d say this, but the South Carolina solar industry—which had been stunted for years by coal and nuclear interests in the state—started a growth spurt in 2014 that appears as if it will continue. Whether it’s the vacation areas along the coast (worried about the rising ocean levels) or the embrace of solar by South Carolina Energy & Gas, the past year has been phenomenal for South Carolina, and its growth is expected to expand further in 2015.

The one southeastern state that is struggling the most with solar deployment—which continues to baffle us—is Florida. It’s the Sunshine State, for crying out loud—why on earth wouldn’t it take advantage of this amazing resource to create clean energy?

Well, there are a couple of reasons as we see it. First, electricity prices are spectacularly low in the state. So unlike other early solar adopters (California and New Jersey come to mind) where electricity prices were prohibitively high, there’s no real incentive to install solar panels to save money—and that’s what speaks to homeowners.

Secondly, there’s been a disinformation campaign designed to sell consumers the negative aspects of solar. The misinformation being shared includes:

* Solar will raise electricity rates for everyone else.

* Solar consumers don’t pay their fair share for grid upgrades.

Thirdly, Florida is one of a handful of states—along with North Carolina—to prohibit solar leasing. But we’re hopeful the Sunshine state will follow Georgia’s lead to change that. An initiative is expected to be on the ballot later this year that will open the state to solar leasing. And there’s more good news: utility juggernaut Duke Energy recently pledged to build 500 MW of solar in the state. So though it’s been slow, Florida may finally live up to its name and generate electricity from its most abundant resource.

We are looking forward to learning more about this exciting market so we can help spread the solar revolution there. The conference is today and Friday. We’ll let you know what we learn.

Until then, stay sunny!