How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar in Florida
Despite being the, “Sunshine State,” Florida ranks 24th in the nation when it comes to solar power. One of the main problems is that unlike many states (30 states and the District of Columbia), Florida does not have a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). An RPS would require all of Florida’s utilities to generate a percentage (typically between 15-20%) of their electricity from renewable sources. This would provide Florida’s utilities with tremendous incentive to create much larger renewable energy rebate programs to help promote the adoption of technologies like solar. In addition to having no RPS, Florida has complicated property tax exemptions requiring careful investigation to ensure that solar panels, which will inevitably increase the value of your home, don’t increase your property taxes. Florida has no statewide solar power rebates or tax credit program and the funds behind local government sponsored rebates are quickly exhausted.
Despite all of this, there is consumer demand for solar in Florida and those residents that are able to go solar, are enjoying the benefits including lower utility bills and a smaller environmental footprint. An average residential solar system costs between $15,000-25,000. Considering that you will probably spend over $72,000 in electrical bills over the next 25 years, this can be a small price to pay in the long run. The exact cost of your solar system will depend on the size of your building, the type of solar installation you choose, and any applicable rebates or utility incentives available in your area. Using a qualified installer who is familiar with the local incentives and permitting process will ensure that you get the most from your investment.
Those who invest in a solar energy system in Florida enjoy the benefits of “net metering.” This means that you only pay for the net amount of electricity that you use. With net metering, homeowners with solar installed are able to “bank” the excess electricity their solar system generates and receive credit up to 100% of their electric bill at the full retail electricity price that they can use later. In practice, this means that at night or on overcast days, you’ll use grid power, but you aren’t likely to be charged for it because of all the credit you’ve generated. This grid tied method tends to be the most convenient for homeowners.
- The Florida Solar Rights Act forbids any entity—including homeowner associations—from prohibiting the installation of solar or other renewable energy devices on Florida buildings. An association may require approval of a system installation, and may establish restrictions for installations. However, any such restrictions must be reasonable, not arbitrary, and applied in a uniform manner for all association members. Also, any restrictions must not have the effect of impairing the performance (i.e. shading), or increasing the cost, of a solar system.
- The Solar Energy Sales Tax Exemption provides exemption for solar energy systems or any component thereof. The Florida Solar Energy Center must certify a list of equipment and requisite hardware considered to be a solar energy system or a component thereof.
Available Rebates in Florida
The state of Florida has various rebate programs that can help make installing a solar energy system affordable for your home or business, but these incentives vary based on where you live in the state and some come in the form of a lottery, or first-come-first-serve system, and are quickly exhausted.
- City of Tallahassee offers loans for city of Tallahassee residential electric and natural gas customers with an interest rate of 5% for home solar systems up to $20,000 and for solar thermal systems up to $10,000. Financing terms are up to 10 years and notes are secured with a property lien.They also offer a $450 cash rebate for solar thermal systems for your primary residence and on any rental properties.
- Florida Power and Light’s Solar Rebate Program is no longer accepting applications.
- Gainesville Regional Utilities’ Solar-Electric System Rebate Program is intended to encourage the growth of cost-effective, reliable, and low-maintenance solar systems and are available to their electric or gas customers interested in installing a solar energy system. While the Solar FIT Program’s funds have been exhausted, net metering for solar PV systems is still available. Essentially with net metering, customers who invest in renewable energy by installing PV systems on their homes can interconnect with the GRU electric system and receive credit for the solar energy they do not use.
- Gulf Power’s Solar PV Program has been closed for 2015. Their website will be updated if funds become available due to cancelled reservations i.e. a previously approved homeowner decides not to proceed with the installation of a solar energy system.
- Progress Energy Florida’s SunSense Solar Photovoltaics Rebate Program is closed as of 2015.
- Tampa Electric’s Solar Rebate Program has also set aside $1.5 million per year to support solar power in the area, $500,000 is for solar thermal and $1,000,000 is for solar PV systems. Unfortunately, in November 2014 the Florida PSC voted to end the solar pilot program requiring independently owned utilities to offer solar rebates. Hence, this particular program will not be offered after December 31st, 2015. You may still be able to apply for rebates (up to $1,000 per unit) for the purchase and installation of a solar water heater.
Will Investing in Solar Panels Increase My Property Taxes?
Solar energy systems have been exempt from Florida’s sales and use tax since July 1, 1997. In addition, Florida excludes the value of a solar system from your annual property taxes. So if you install a solar system on your home and your property value goes up as a result, you will not have to pay increased property taxes as a result of the increase in value from the solar system. That said, you may want to consult an attorney with respect to any commercial or rental properties to which you add a solar energy system.
Are There Special Financing Options Available for Upgrading to a Solar Energy System?
Yes, and no. Florida has authorized local municipalities and counties to offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, in which city governments issue municipal bonds in order to give out loans to home or building owners to finance the purchase of a solar energy system for their buildings. The property owner then pays the cost of that loan (with a competitive interest rate) over 15 to 20 years through an increase in the respective building’s property taxes. Unfortunately, as a result of the Federal Housing Finance Agency position on PACE financing, no municipalities have adopted PACE programs.
Notable Solar Energy Systems Throughout the State of Florida
- The iconic Daytona International Speedway has installed more than 5,000 solar panels, reducing an estimated 2,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to the emissions from a car driving 2 million laps around the Speedway.
- The University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando has made a significant investment in solar energy. The Student Union is home to a solar dok that uses solar power to produce electrical energy. Student are able to charge their laptops and cellphones, while enjoying the shade under the dok. Across the campus, PV systems have been installed directly into the campus grid to provide a significant percentage of the campus’ energy needs, while decreasing energy costs. Additionally, UCF is utilizing solar thermal technology to heat the water in its residence halls.
- The U.S. military recently announced contracts for the construction of 3 large solar plants in Florida: a 50 MW project at Saufley Field in Pensacola, a 40 MW project being at Holley Field in Navarre, and a 30 MW project at Eglin Air Force Base.
- Duke Energy is building a 20-acre solar farm in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. The 5MW farm will sell power to Walt Disney World. Completion is expected in late 2015
Incorporating Solar Into Your Florida Home
The first step to incorporating a solar energy system into your home is to contact a professional solar panel installer to assess your home. Your installer will investigate your average electricity use and examine your roof to determine what type of solar system will best meet your needs. Your installer should also be able to talk to you about how to secure financing for your system and how to obtain any available rebates. Your installer will also secure any necessary permits for the installation. Depending on where you live in Florida, permits may be required well in advance of the installation of your solar energy system.
Once approved, your solar energy system can be installed in 24-72 hours. The installers will secure mounting brackets to your roof, adding any necessary wiring, install the solar panels, and connect the wires to your home’s electrical system via an inverter. Once this is completed, your installer will schedule any necessary inspections to get final approval for your system. Usually, a county or city inspector will check to make sure that the system is up to code. Once this is done, your solar system will have final approval and it can start providing you electricity.
How Do Solar Panels Stand Up to Hurricane Season in Florida?
Solar panels actually provide an additional level of protection to the roof they cover. If there’s ever a problem with the roof that needs to be repaired, panels can easily be removed. Most solar panels are not attached directly to the roof itself, but rather to a mounted railing system. Installers add sealants to fill in any gaps and often the mounts are surrounded by metal flashing, or coverings that act as an extra barrier from the elements.
In Florida and other areas prone to hurricanes, your insurance company and/or local building codes may require hurricane proofing of your solar panels. If you live on the southern coast, your solar panels will have to be installed to withstand the pressure of 150 mph winds. Your installer will know your local requirements and will take all the steps necessary to install the panels properly.