May 27, 2019

Economic Backbone

LEEDing the way: Green developments around Florida

Amy Martinez | 10/26/2017

Residential Solar

In addition to utility-sized solar, small-scale residential solar also is expanding. But while the cost of rooftop solar panels has declined in recent years, many homeowners find that the installation process remains expensive and complicated.

The League of Women Voters of Florida wants to bolster solar energy adoption by making buying easier. Last year, the organization joined with the national non-profit Solar United Neighbors to help homeowners form local solar purchasing cooperatives.

The co-ops solicit competitive bids from local solar installers and use their collective buying power to obtain discounts on residential installations. Members sign their own contracts but benefit from the group’s bulk discount and shared expertise, says Angela DeMonbreun, program director for Solar United Neighbors of Florida. Membership is free and carries no obligation to buy solar.

So far, more than 3,400 people have joined nearly 20 solar co-ops statewide, DeMonbreun says. “It’s still intimidating to navigate the whole process. But prices have come down, so the economics are right,” she says. “We give homeowners the information they need to facilitate the process from beginning to end.”

Meanwhile, the city of South Miami has taken an aggressive step to promote residential solar, requiring new homes to have solar panels. Last summer, the city commission, led by South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a biology professor at Florida International University, voted 4-1 to make solar power mandatory for all new residential construction. The law also applies to some home expansion and renovation projects.

South Miami is the first Florida city — and the first U.S. city outside California — to pass such a requirement. The St. Petersburg City Council dropped considerations of a similar similar ordinance in August after public outcry.

Florida’s Solar Industry

  • 785 – Total solar megawatts installed
  • 12 – National ranking
  • 86,000 – Homes powered by solar
  • 0.36% – Percentage of state’s electricity that comes from solar
  • 8,260 – Solar jobs
  • 499 – Solar companies in the state

Source: Solar Energy Industries Association

Solar Capacity

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that Florida homeowners, businesses and utilities will install 3,615 megawatts of solar capacity over the next five years — nearly four times the amount of solar installed in the past five years.

Florida’s annual installed solar capacity:

  • 2012 – 24.2 megawatts
  • 2013 – 26.3 megawatts
  • 2014 – 21.6 megawatts
  • 2015 – 42.5 megawatts
  • 2016 – 404.7 megawatts

Source: Solar Energy Industries Association

  • Last year, Miami Beach began requiring developers of projects bigger than 7,000 square feet to conserve energy and water or pay the city a fee equal to 5% of the total construction cost.
  • This year, Manatee County became the state’s first government to earn platinum status by the Florida Green Building Coalition. The county’s green measures include making a new downtown Bradenton chiller plant energy efficient (photo left), transitioning to single-stream recycling (allowing residents to mix together plastic, glass, paper and metal in hopes of increasing recycling rates) and sponsoring such events as a teen fashion show featuring recycled clothing.
  • Two years ago, TECO built its first utility-scale solar project on the top floor of a parking garage at Tampa International Airport. The 2-megawatt array produces enough solar electricity to power 250 homes. Earlier this year, TECO completed a second, 23-megawatt solar array at the company’s Big Bend power station in Apollo Beach. The utility also has a new 1.8-megawatt solar system at Legoland in Winter Haven.
  • Utilities estimate that a single megawatt of solar energy can power 150 to 200 homes.
  • Last year, nearly 16,000 business and residential utility customers in Florida had solar systems, up from about 11,600 in 2015.
  • More than half of the state’s total solar capacity comes from utilityowned photovoltaic installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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