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”

Measures to Help Ensure a Positive Solar Experience

Solar panel on a red roof reflecting the sun and the cloudless blue sky
Being proactive and educating yourself help ensure a positive solar experience.

More and more, Florida homeowners and businesses are installing solar panels on their rooftops.[1] Not only does Florida’s recent uptick in solar construction mean more local jobs, lower energy bills, and reduced carbon emissions, it also means that at least some unscrupulous salespeople and contractors will attempt to exploit unwitting consumers. Some misbehavior is to be expected in any line of business, but the solar industry has a markedly low incidence of consumer complaints according to the Better Business Bureau.[2] If you’re thinking about going solar, you should be proactive and know what you’re signing up for. Continue reading “Measures to Help Ensure a Positive Solar Experience”

“You Should Assume You Are Going to Lose Power and Hope That You Don’t”

In the face of Hermine’s landfall, Florida Governor Rick Scott warned Floridians: “You should assume you are going to lose power and hope that you don’t.” Three days later, Scott expressed frustration at the rate of power restoration: “I am incredibly disappointed about where the city is on restoring power. It has been almost four days since the storm, and there are still over 21,000 families and businesses in Tallahassee without power.”

Certainly, losing power was a reasonable expectation for electric customers at ground zero, but less expected was the extent of power outages throughout the rest of the state, particularly in places where Hermine’s effects were perhaps only somewhat more intense than a typical summer storm. Continue reading ““You Should Assume You Are Going to Lose Power and Hope That You Don’t””

Clearing the Path for More Solar in the Sunshine State

In the August 30th primary election, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, granting the Florida Legislature’s request for authority to exempt the value of solar improvements from commercial property taxes.

Now that the Legislature has that authority, the people of Florida will look to the Legislature to promptly implement the exemption in the 2017 General Session.

The passage of Amendment 4 further accelerates the already dizzying drop in solar prices. Continue reading “Clearing the Path for More Solar in the Sunshine State”

What’s on the Back of My Ballot? What Amendment 4 Is All About

If you vote by mail, then you’ve likely already received your August 30 primary ballot with a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution on the back.  It is Amendment 4, and it is the only amendment on the primary ballot.  (The other amendments will appear on the presidential election ballot in November.)

Amendment 4 allows the Legislature to exempt the value of solar panels and other renewable energy equipment from commercial and industrial property taxes.  Specifically, it exempts solar and renewable energy equipment from ad valorem taxation on tangible personal property and real property. Continue reading “What’s on the Back of My Ballot? What Amendment 4 Is All About”