They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing—in fact, most parts of Florida get about 100 clear days of sun a year. That may not sound like a lot, especially when you compare those numbers to the ones coming out of Arizona, California, and Nevada—all of which receive upwards of 250 sun-drenched days annually. But as one of the country’s southernmost states, Florida residents see some of the most intense rays in the US. And actually, the state ranks ninth in the union for solar intensity, meaning it has tons of untapped solar potential.
And now, residents in the Orange State can take advantage of all that intense sunlight by installing their own solar energy system through one of the nation’s most well-known solar providers, SolarCity. A large national installer recently acquired by Tesla Motors, SolarCity announced late in 2016 that it would begin implementing residential services in Florida, starting in Orlando and expanding to other parts of the state in the months to come.
Voters Reject Florida’s Amendment 1, Prompting SolarCity Expansion
According to SolarCity’s blog, the decision to expand to Florida was in part due to voter’s voices on their state ballots. In November, Floridians voted to reject Amendment 1, which would have allowed non-solar households to opt out of subsidizing solar incentives. Opponents of the ballot measure were concerned that it would essentially allow utilities to gut net metering programs—a big problem for solar providers, since programs like these are used to make solar installations more affordable and accessible to the public. In fact, some solar advocates even claimed that, if Florida successfully adopted the measure, it would cut new solar installations in half.
And net metering incentives are of particular interest to SolarCity. As an installer with a leasing option, SolarCity uses incentives like net metering to fund their business model. When consumers choose to lease a solar energy from a provider like this, they sign over the incentives they would receive from the government and local utilities. In exchange, the solar company installs a system on the lessee’s home and allows them access to the power the system generates—and usually, the opportunity to purchase the solar panels after a certain amount of time has passed.
Typically, providers with this business model only set down roots in areas where they feel net metering incentives are secure and where the local attitude is amenable to solar power. Although almost every state currently offers some form of net metering, these incentives came under fire again and again in 2015 and 2016, with utility providers arguing that credit programs place an unfair burden on non-solar households to fund incentives through traditional energy payments. Additionally, many have questioned whether net metering programs are even sustainable in the long run. These kinds of concerns make SolarCity’s move very meaningful for Florida’s solar future. As one of the biggest solar providers on the block, the company has the power to shape the solar industry in the areas where it sets up shop.
How SolarCity Plans to Increase Solar in Florida
Sorry, Tallahasseeans—if you want your system serviced by SolarCity, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. According to SolarCity’s blog, the initial Florida roll-out will serve only Duke Energy and Orlando Utilities Commission customers in the greater Orlando area. The company says it has plans to extend services throughout the rest of Florida, but hasn’t yet offered a specific date for when that implementation will begin. Additionally, according to some reports, SolarCity is not currently offering its leasing program for Orlandoans, so if you’re hoping to get a system on your Florida home for zero dollars down, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
In the meantime, those Orlando homeowners that do want to buy their own system can visit SolarCity’s website to initiate a quote—or check out the ModSun Solar Cost Calculator to understand the costs and purchasing options associated with a new solar energy system. Since SolarCity made its move into the area, AirBnB also announced that it will offer its Orlando-based hosts a $1,000 cash incentive towards the purchase of solar panels—as long as they come from SolarCity, which AirBnB partners with. You can find out more details about that program here.
Meanwhile, another recent amendment passed in August 2016 amended state legislation to exempt homeowners from paying additional property taxes generated by installing solar equipment on their homes. These kinds of developments do seem to indicate that support for solar is growing throughout the state, a trend you can expect to continue as solar power gains ground. And with a wider variety of options to purchase and install solar—and new ways to save on cumbersome fees—things are definitely looking a lot sunnier for solar power in the Sunshine State!