Florida: The Sunshine State … or not

Solar panels

Florida is one the nation’s worst at solar energy, study says

Florida is known for more than just a few things, but if you ask 100 people, 99 would probably mention some combination of sunny beaches, suntans, and sunburn. That said, it’s logical to believe that the state would also be near the top of the charts when it comes to solar energy, right? Wrong.

According to a recent study by the Center for Biological Diversity, Florida is actually part of the bottom tier of states when it comes to solar policies and the state’s apparent willingness to transition to solar energy and other renewable energy sources. The state has a ton of solar energy potential but very little of that has been realized to date.

The ten worst solar states in the U.S.

In the study, the Center for Biological Diversity highlighted regions that are “blocking distributed solar potential through overtly lacking and destructive distributed solar policy,” and targeted 10 states in particular — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that group of ten states owns more than a third (35 percent) of the total rooftop solar energy potential in the contiguous U.S., but accounts for just 6 percent of the total installed distributed solar capacity as of March 2016. The top ten solar states in the U.S., on the other hand, account for 86 percent of the total solar capacity in the U.S. So there’s big gap to fill and there are a lot of opportunities to fill that gap.

Florida gets an “F”

The Center for Biological Diversity assigned grades to each state based on numerous factors, including, for example, the existence of any solar expansion policies or any regulations that could either aid or hinder rooftop solar development. Not only did Florida not receive a passing grade, but it got slapped with the worst of the worst, a big, fat “F.”

Florida trails only California and Texas in overall potential for rooftop solar power. This fact is not surprising in that Florida is a pretty big state, has a relatively large population and sees quite a bit of the sun each calendar year. But, despite having the third highest solar potential, thirteen states rank higher than Florida in actual solar power (installed) capacity. This discrepancy is a main reason for the failing grade the state received in the study.

But why the discrepancy? According to the study, Florida has a weak net metering law and, in general, simply lacks legislation that would serve to encourage rooftop solar and other renewable energy initiatives.

Net metering is system in which owners of residential (usually rooftop) solar installations are compensated by state utilities for unused electrical power generated by their solar arrays. Currently, at least 43 U.S. states have net metering in place in some capacity.

At this point, mentioning that Florida’s official state slogan is The Sunshine State is just pouring salt in the wounds. But there is still hope. The Center for Biological Diversity offered up recommendations to help Florida make good on some of its tremendous solar potential, including the creation of a community solar program and low-income financing program, and the creation of solar access laws make it easier for state residents to install solar panels on their property.

Source → Center for Biological Diversity