LWV Reports Sunshine State is Making Solar Strides

Staff Report
BRADENTON — A grass-roots effort to increase solar power production at the residential level is driving a big spike in Florida installations, according to a progress report released by the League of Women Voters Florida this week. The report was delivered to the Florida Legislature, while the group urged lawmakers to continue their support of solar-related initiatives.

Two years ago, the LWVF  and another non-profit called Solar United Neighbors launched a new program in Florida to help homeowners learn about solar and use bulk buying power to get wholesale pricing on rooftop units. It is now the largest such program in the country, adding almost 7 MW of solar power to the state. 

In two years, 25 area co-ops have been launched following public sessions that have drawn more than 4,000 people. The groups recently formed a Manatee County chapter, along with another in St. Pete. A Sarasota chapter launched last year.

"Studies show that rooftop solar helps everyone," said Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana. "It creates jobs, provides clean energy, reduces stress on the commercial power grid, and provides a buffer against price increases by reducing the need for new power plants.”

Florida now leads the nation in new residential rooftop permits with a growth rate of 110 percent in 2016. The Florida Solar Energy Center reports solar jobs are growing at a rate of ten times that of the Florida economy.

"The increased focus on the renewable energy market is providing jobs and a substantial economic boost to both the U.S. and Florida," said Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "I expect the continued growth of solar power to prove beneficial to our economy and the environment, and I am proud that Florida is leading the way."

Meanwhile, head of the Florida Sierra Club’s clean air initiative Phil Compton reported that three Florida cities — Orlando, St. Petersburg and Sarasota — have made commitments to use 100 percent clean energy no later than 2050. In addition, 40 Florida mayors have pledged to convert their cities to 100 percent renewable energy. Thirteen are in Volusia County, making it first in the country.

Despite the uptick, it's only the tip of the iceberg in terms of leveraging the state's potential. Citing the potential to grow solar even more, Susan Glickman, Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, "The recent growth in solar is good news, but Florida still has much room for improvement. With less than 16,000 net metered systems out of almost 9 million electricity customers, solar is just beginning to hit its stride.”