Florida keeps solar momentum moving forward

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To paraphrase legendary Houston Oilers Coach Bum Phillips, solar knocked on the door to expanding in Florida. This year, it seems, it plans on kicking in the door.

Two new initiatives – one involving solar co-ops and one involving property-assessed clean energy (PACE) could build on the momentum the industry gained last year with the passage of Amendment 4 and the stunning defeat of Amendment 1.

The two ballot initiatives captivated the solar industry during an otherwise distracting presidential campaign. Amendment 4 (currently in the process of being implemented) exempted solar from being considered when assessing property taxes on business. Amendment 1 was a utility-backed proposal designed to keep solar development in the hands of Florida’s powerful utilities, which was defeated when it failed to get the 60% approval needed to become law.

Now, hoping to build on the increased public awareness of the industry, the Community Power Network, based in Washington DC., has teamed with Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (Florida SUN) to establish two solar co-ops in  East and West Broward Counties. The co-ops have meetings schedule in early March to provide information to interested co-op members. The two have also issued requests-for-proposals to local solar installers.

The co-ops group interested homeowners together into one bargaining entity to negotiate lower-than-market rates. Once those rates are established, individual homeowners contract for and own the arrays taht are installed on their homes. This approach is already in five other states.

In addition, the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association is encouraging Florida residents to educate their county executives on the benefits of PACE, a program that allows businesses and homeowners who install solar to pay for the system over time as part of their property taxes. It helps those who want to invest in solar avoid the sometimes steep up-front costs of the installation.

PACE became part of Florida’s solar-financing arsenal in 2010, when the legislature approved the program. At present, 22 communities are implementing PACE and around 5,000 homeowners are taking advantage of it.

Update: This article was updated at 3 pm EST on 2/21/17 to clarify that Amendment 1 was defeated in November last year. The description of the co-ops were inaccurate and were also updated with correct information.