Florida Governor Scott lifts tax burden on leased, C&I solar with bill signing

Florida’s SB 90 had a long road to becoming law. The bill started as Amendment 4, a ballot initiative to reduce prohibitive taxes on third-party and commercial and industrial (C&I) solar, which voters overwhelmingly approved last August. From there it was necessary to go through the Florida House and Senate, which added consumer protection language before the bill was finally passed on May 15.

Last Friday the relief from property taxes on leased and C&I solar which residential PV system owners have enjoyed finally became law in Florida, with Governor Rick Scott (R) signing the bill.

SB 90 exempts leased and C&I systems from 80% of tangible personal property taxes. Vinyasun CEO Justin Hoysradt, who formerly worked for Vote Solar on the Amendment 4 effort, says this will reduce the tax burden on leased and C&I systems from an estimated $0.05 per kilowatt-hour (KWh) to $0.01/KWh, making them more than competitive even with Florida’s low electricity rates.

As such, the law is expected to allow the third-party solar model to come to Florida, and solar advocates say that this will allow the nation’s third-largest and second-southernmost state to become one of its largest solar markets.

“This legislation will help Florida take its rightful place as a solar star,” stated Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) CEO Abigail Hopper. “The state’s market doubled last year and we expect this new law will help Florida become one of the top five solar states in short order.”

Advocates have also noted that like other places in the U.S. South, this advance for the solar industry was led by conservative Republicans. SB 90’s author, Senator Jeff Brandes, was given an A+ ranking by Americans For Prosperity, a right-wing advocacy group formed by the Koch Brothers.

“Broad support from conservatives, the business community, the solar industry, and environmental organizations brought together volunteers, an array of elected officials and everyone in between, in a truly non partisan effort to bring pro solar Amendment 4 into law,” stated Susan Glickman, the Florida director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

And as changed policies open up more of Florida’s distributed solar market, the state’s utility-scale solar market is booming. Earlier this week utility Florida Power and Light announced the beginning of work on eight solar projects in the state which will total 596 MW, after contracting 224 MW of solar late last year to replace a retiring gas plant.