Sunshine State Looks To Boost Solar Industry
Solar industry professionals remain worried that Florida, nicknamedthe “Sunshine State” for its abundance of warm weather, is missing outon all the fun in the sun. While the state currently ranks sixth in thecountry in terms of grid-connected solar capacity at 39 megawatts (MW),two statistics cast doubts over the future of solar energy in Florida.
One is the margin between Florida and other states at the top of thelist in terms of grid-connected solar capacity. Top-seeded Californiahas installed a total of 1,102 megawatts of grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) capacity — nearly 30 times Florida’s figure. The second is Florida’s recently expired statewide solar rebate program, which encouraged many homeowners to invest in solar panels. Floridaresidents who install solar energy systems may still benefit from a30-percent federal tax credit. However, without meaningful incentives at the state or utility level, it’s likely that solar photovoltaic (PV)systems are at present too costly to be broadly adopted across thestate.
Where does Florida go from here? Generally speaking, there are twooptions: (1) Instate a comprehensive renewable energy program, one thatpromotes the adoption of today’s solar technology; or (2) Put offrenewable energy legislation until later.
Gubernatorial candidates Alex Sink, a Democrat, and Independentcandidate Bud Chiles, are pulling for the first option. Both candidateshave said that they want to stimulate the growth of Florida’s renewableenergy economy by funding state incentive programs.
On the other hand, Republican candidates Rick Scott and Bill McCollum want to let the free market economy run its course. They suggest thatsolar energy equipment — the panels in particular — will be moreaffordable than coal sources by as early as 2020. By waiting out themarket, Scott and McCollum say, Florida’s clean energy industry willtake off without additional state support, once prices come down.
The question will soon be in the hands of Florida voters in the nextelection: Wait it out and put faith in the free market system? Or stepup and push for a statewide renewable energy incentive program?
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