A new report* from PV Magazine finds Florida now leads the nation in solar growth. The state saw a 110% increase in new residential solar permits over the previous year. A state-wide partnership between the League of Women Voters and Solar United Neighbors of Florida, have spurred this growth. Solar United Neighbors of Florida was formerly known as FL SUN. It rolled out this new name this week to better reflect the unified actions of the organization’s nine state-based programs.
Funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Barancik Foundation, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and now several cities and counties, Florida homeowners and businesses are now able to take advantage of some of the lowest prices for solar in the nation using a grassroots program called Solar United Neighbors of Florida, which announced a national re-branding this week.
Pamela Goodman, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida said, “With standing room only at many of our solar education forums, it is thrilling for our grassroots volunteers to help main street Florida keep millions of dollars in Florida by saving money and harnessing the sun.”
“We envision a clean, equitable energy future, with solar on every roof and money in every pocket,” said Angela DeMonbreun, Solar United Neighbors of Florida Program Director.
Solar United Neighbors of Florida began working in the state in 2016 in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Florida. Modeled off of similar programs in Maryland, Virginia, and elsewhere, the program has already launched 14 co-ops and will have launched 21 by the end of this calendar year, with several counties and cities angling to repeat their co-ops in 2018.
In an unusual bipartisan show of support, elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats have become strong solar supporters. Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) last year was a leader in achieving passage of a pro-solar amendment that will help reduce the costs for both businesses and residents. This will be in addition to the extended 30% federal income tax credit that consumers all across the country are eligible for through 2019, and at a diminished rate through 2021. The new commercial tax exemptions will launch in January of 2018 following quicker than usual action by the Florida Legislature.
Now several mayors have jumped on board with Mayor Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) launching the first FLSUN.org co-op in his city last year, followed by Mayor Teresa Jacobs (R-Orange County), and several Miami-Dade mayors. Co-ops have launched in Alachua, Seminole, Volusia, Brevard, Sarasota, and many more.
Recently the city of St. Petersburg committed $75,000 to hiring a full time Solar United Neighbors coordinator to organize community cooperatives to further lower the cost of solar and utility bills for its citizens. Miami-Dade, Orange, Broward, and Hillsborough have all committed funds and support to provide neighborhood cooperatives for their citizens, promoting the use of rooftop solar to harness the sun and help residents lower their utility bills.
Dr. James Fenton, Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center exhorts Florida citizens: “Solar on your roof and a plug in vehicle in your garage is the best place Florida consumers can put their money. It offers a better return than the stock market…and the jobs stay in Florida.”
Florida installer president and FLASEIA (Florida Solar Energy and Installers Association) board member Remo Eyal said, “Grassroots movements across the state have helped tear down barriers to solar installations. And today we have grid parity, which means for the solar customer, that the financed cost of electricity from solar is less than buying electricity from the power companies.”
Stephen Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, “The market in Florida is going gangbusters in all market segments, from utilities to rooftop solar for both businesses and residential.”
League President Pamela Goodman is thrilled with the progress: “We’re well on our way to making Florida #1 in solar with these exciting growth rates in new solar permits – Go to www.SolarUnitedNeighbors.org and let’s go solar, Florida!”
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.