Despite its nickname as the Sunshine State, and its enormous power demand Florida has not been a great market for solar PV. This is in part due to high taxes on commercial and industrial as well as third-party residential solar, which has been the dominant business model in that market segment in the United States. Additionally, the state does not allow power purchase agreements for residential solar.
Regardless, today Vivint Solar announced its expansion into Florida, with 40 new employees in the state and an office in the Tampa Bay area. In a brief press statement the company says that it will provide loan products to its customers who install solar, including zero-down loans. The company is not offering a solar lease in Florida at this time.
Vivint stresses Florida’s high energy consumption, noting that Florida’s annual household electricity consumption is roughly 30% higher than the U.S. average. However, despite having the third-largest population with 20 million residents, Florida was only the 16th-largest state solar market in 2015.
Vivint’s move comes as Florida readies for a ballot initiative backed by the solar industry to reduce taxes on PV systems. On August 30, the state’s residents will be able to vote on whether or not to exempt PV modules and other equipment from the real property tax and tangible property tax.
Proponents of the Yes on 4 campaign note the relative dependence of the state on property taxes, and say these two taxes are “huge barriers” to installing solar in the state. “When you ask solar developers and rooftop installers what the obstacles are in Florida, we have overwhelmingly heard property taxes as the top answer,” Vote Solar Program Director of New Markets Scott Thomasson told pv magazine.
The campaign promises to be highly contested, with utilities bankrolling a rival amendment.
Vivint suggested that if the initiative passes it may be able to expand its offerings to include leases. “Our expansion into Florida was not predicated on the outcome of the Measure 4 ballot initiative, however, we do support the expansion of property tax exemptions that encourage solar power generation as it paves the way for our company (and others) to diversify the solar power generation products that we offer,” Vivint Solar EVP and Head of Capital Markets Thomas Plagemann told pv magazine.
Update: This article was updated at 11:30 AM EST on August 26 to include responses by Vivint Solar and the quote by Mr. Plagemann.
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