Here’s a Look at What We’re Reading Today

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Are Florida Voters Getting Burned by Lawmakers on Last Year’s Solar Amendment?

TALLAHASSEE — A bill moving through the Florida House to implement the August ballot initiative by giving tax breaks to businesses that install solar energy panels is under fire for doing what the utility industry could not do in the last election cycle — impose impediments to rooftop solar installation. Several legislators of a committee expressed reservations and members of the solar industry warned that a long list of “consumer protections” in the bill will actually serve to keep legitimate companies from doing business in Florida.

Making Solar Big Enough to Matter

Solar energy has become big business. Over the past decade it has plummeted in cost, surged in volume, and, as booming industries do, benefited some investors and burned others. The International Energy Agency has predicted photovoltaic solar could provide up to 16 percent of the world’s electricity by mid-century — an enormous increase from the roughly 1 percent that solar generates today. But for solar to realize its potential, governments will have to grow up too. They’ll need to overhaul their solar policies to make them ruthlessly economically efficient. The widespread view that solar power is a hopelessly subsidized business is quickly growing outdated. . . .  Continue reading “Here’s a Look at What We’re Reading Today”

Florida Power & Light Company Names Eight New Utility-Scale Solar Projects

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Florida Power and Light Company to pepper its service territory with several additional solar farms [1]
Referring to each 74.5-megawatt solar plant as “universal” solar, FPL recently announced that it would add four such plants to its power-generation portfolio by the end of 2017 and four more by March 2018. Last week, FPL identified them by name, county, and acreage when it added the projects to its Solar Energy Centers webpage. Continue reading “Florida Power & Light Company Names Eight New Utility-Scale Solar Projects”

Now Hiring: Are Growing Florida Solar Businesses Properly Using Restrictive Covenants to Protect Their Confidential Information?

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Ensure that your non-competition agreements with your solar employees are fully enforceable.

The solar industry is beginning to take off in the Sunshine State. Florida added 1,700 solar jobs in 2016, making it the fifth largest solar employment market in the United States according to the 2016 Solar Jobs Census, and the state is well-positioned for continued growth.

While growth in the solar industry is an overall positive trend, Florida’s solar employers should be aware of certain growing pains as they participate in this expanding market. In particular, employers should be mindful of the right (and wrong) ways to protect and preserve their valuable customer relationships and hard-won confidential information. Continue reading “Now Hiring: Are Growing Florida Solar Businesses Properly Using Restrictive Covenants to Protect Their Confidential Information?”

FMPA Solar Survey Results Reveal Opportunity for Utility-Sourced Solar

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The Florida Municipal Power Agency (“FMPA”) held a public meeting on Thursday, February 16, in which the agency shared the results of a solar survey conducted among the residential electric customers of ten of the city utilities that are FMPA members.[1]

Michael Vigeant, CEO of Great Blue Research, presented the survey results to the FMPA board. The survey found that 71.7% of surveyed residents saw the need for solar, citing solar’s environmental and economic advantages. Continue reading “FMPA Solar Survey Results Reveal Opportunity for Utility-Sourced Solar”

Florida’s Solar Market: The Sleeping Giant is Awakening

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The year 2016 was a good year for solar power, both nationally and in Florida. The total amount of installed U.S. solar power generating capacity nearly doubled in a single year from an already impressive 7.5 gigawatts of capacity added to the grid in 2015 to over 14.6 gigawatts in 2016.

Florida participated in solar power’s national success by adding 1,700 solar jobs, building utility-scale solar farms, engaging in robust commercial and industrial solar installation activity, achieving favorable outcomes on two constitutional referenda, and positioning itself to make further progress throughout 2017. Florida’s solar market, which had long been a sleeping giant among U.S. solar markets, is now awakening. Continue reading “Florida’s Solar Market: The Sleeping Giant is Awakening”

Bright Year Ahead for Solar in the Sunshine State

Those who are interested in participating in the roll-out of solar power in Florida have reason to be optimistic heading into the New Year. Here are a few of the salient developments:

  • The legislature is poised to implement a commonsense property tax exemption for solar equipment;
  • National solar installers have recently been locating operations in the state; and
  • Florida utilities are taking steps to add substantial amounts of solar to their portfolios.

The United States is experiencing a record-breaking wave of solar installations, and Florida is poised to expand its participation in the new year. Continue reading “Bright Year Ahead for Solar in the Sunshine State”

Competing Solar Construction Liens: Vesting & Priorities

Developers of utility-scale solar photovoltaic construction projects are starting to add Florida projects to their pipelines, and Florida solar construction activity is projected to pick up in 2017 and thereafter. This will continue a trend that began in 2015 with nearly a gigawatt of announced solar projects by Florida’s investor-owned utilities.

Solar construction projects involve a plethora of competing interests: The tax equity investor, the lender, the EPC contractor, engineers, equipment vendors, and electrical and mechanical subcontractors are all competing for limited funds meant to be exchanged for labor, services, and materials.[1] In an ideal world, there are enough funds to pay the full value of all claims for work, services, and materials furnished. However, this is not always the case and is a main reason why Florida has such an in-depth statutory scheme governing construction liens and other claims to funds. As such, this article intends to address the basic vesting and priorities among competing liens on solar construction projects. Continue reading “Competing Solar Construction Liens: Vesting & Priorities”

Solar Advocates Staved Off Amendment 1: What to Expect Now

The defeat of Amendment 1 allows for the possibility of a realistic valuation of solar to ensure that utilities and electric customers both come out winners in Florida’s clean energy future.

Opponents held their ground Tuesday as Floridians rejected a ballot measure that opponents maintained would have put into the state constitution a presumption that solar panel users are not paying their fair share of the costs of maintaining the electric grid.

Opponents claimed that Amendment 1’s passage would have given utilities a constitutional argument to impose discriminatory charges on solar users. Continue reading “Solar Advocates Staved Off Amendment 1: What to Expect Now”

Can a Homeowner’s Association Stop a Homeowner from Putting Solar Panels on the Roof?

solar-panel-roof_smallBeauty is in the eyes of the beholder. For a homeowner who installs solar panels on her roof, the electric cost savings make the solar panels an exquisite conversation piece, but perhaps for some of her neighbors who haven’t yet “gone solar,” those same solar panels may be an unwelcome sight. In fact, it is not uncommon for homeowners to be discouraged from installing solar equipment, even unintentionally, by their community associations. Community associations, as well as homeowners, should be aware of what Florida law allows and prohibits, and should guide their review and approval processes accordingly. Continue reading “Can a Homeowner’s Association Stop a Homeowner from Putting Solar Panels on the Roof?”

Issues in Florida Utility-Scale Solar Construction

Rows of solar panels at a large solar farm. Showing the hardware that connects them and controls their movement following the sunlight.
Rows of solar panels at a utility-scale solar farm. Showing the tracking system that controls their movement following the sunlight.

Although the adoption of solar power has skyrocketed in other states, Florida electric customers are only now beginning to realize solar’s economic and environmental benefits. To be sure, natural gas prices are currently low by any measure, and that translates to low electricity prices for the time being because gas-fired electricity plants account for so much of the state’s power mix. Even so, whether one considers the cost of solar by the cost of the fuel (sunlight is free), the cost of a solar farm averaged out over its useful life, or the cost of one unit of electricity that a solar farm produces, the cost metrics are on target to fall below fossil fuels and win the price war.[1]

It is not surprising, therefore, to see Florida’s utilities beginning to take measured steps toward adopting solar power into their portfolios of electricity-generating assets. The most substantial investments have come from Florida Power & Light Company with three large solar farms that are currently under construction in southwest Florida. Even so, solar still accounts for less than one tenth of one percent of FPL’s generation portfolio, and this number is likely to increase with the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, coupled with global and federal pressures to reduce carbon emissions.[2]

Continue reading “Issues in Florida Utility-Scale Solar Construction”