Seeking to capitalize on an abundance of freely available energy and dramatically bring down costs for consumers, state Senator Lori Berman (D-Delray Beach) on Tuesday announced the filing of legislation establishing the first-ever statewide community solar program. The goal is to create at least 500 MW of community solar generating capacity, with 40% of that capacity reserved, on an annual basis, for low-to-moderate income community solar projects, as well as launch Florida into the forefront of solar-based economic growth.
“Renewable and solar energy legislation is long overdue in the state of Florida. I am proud to be a leader in this field and hope my colleagues in the legislature and those in the utility industry can join me and support this good legislation,” said Senator Berman. “This is the culmination of a project I have worked on for several months and I am excited to share it.”
SB 1156 allows electric customers in Florida to purchase, lease, or subscribe to a portion of a community solar facility and use their portion of the power produced to lower their energy bills, much as if they had installed the system on their property. Community solar programs can provide access to local, affordable and clean energy options to all energy customers – including schools, non-profits and churches. A well-designed community solar program is also an innovative tool that can leverage private investment to remove barriers to solar access for low-income households, affordable housing providers and other underserved communities to access clean energy.
It’s also a job-creator. More than 10,350 Floridians are already employed in the state’s growing solar industry, ranking Florida second in the nation for total solar jobs according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census. By clearing the way for more investment in local clean energy infrastructure, SB 1156 will contribute to a more resilient grid, provide jobs for Florida, and otherwise spur local economic development in the state’s communities, adding Florida to the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have community solar programs in place since just 2010.
Solar has quickly become one of America’s fastest growing and lowest cost energy sources. However, physical and financial barriers prevent many Florida consumers from going solar on their own rooftops – families who rent, have shaded rooftops, or businesses that lease their space, for example. Community solar will expand access to affordable solar energy to all Floridians, regardless of their ability to place solar panels on their own property. Community solar is a critical tool to provide affordable and predictable energy bills for Florida’s 1.3 million low-income households, 1.2 million moderate-income households, and 400,000 households living in affordable housing.
“I sat on the House Energy and Utility Subcommittee for six out of eight years as a House member. Florida lags behind the rest of the country, especially for a state known as the ‘Sunshine State’. It is time we utilize the resources right here in front of us. The benefits are plentiful and the concepts are truly a no-brainer,” stated Senator Berman.
The filing of SB 1156 marks the ongoing commitment Senator Berman has made to the development of solar energy in Florida. Last year, she attended Colorado State University’s Center for New Energy & Economy’s Clean Energy Legislative Academy and committed at that time to filing a community solar bill for the 2019 session. She also pushed for passage of Amendment 4 during the August 2016 primary election, which passed successfully with the support of 73 percent of Florida voters. Amendment 4 provides a property tax exemption for the installation of solar equipment.