Solar power in Florida

ORLANDO — Is it possible there could come a day when homes in Florida are mainly powered by solar energy? Is solar power in Florida the next great energy source?

After all, this is the Sunshine State.

And a lot of industry experts believe solar power has a bright future in this state.

And for homeowners who have lost their power for days, sometimes weeks and months, after a hurricane, this may no longer be a theoretical question. For many of them, not having to be connected to their local electric grid sounds wonderful.

There are high expectations these days for the solar energy industry, particularly in states like Florida, California and Arizona. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located in Golden, Colorado, shares that enthusiasm and has projected that rooftop solar panels could generate up to 40 percent of the electricity in the U.S. in the next decade, in part because energy from the sun that gets converted into thermal or electrical energy will prove to be among the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available.

How Is Solar Energy Being Used Today?

Today, solar technology can harness this energy for plenty of different uses. That includes generating electricity, providing light, and heating water for domestic, commercial/industrial use.

In recent years, the U.S. solar market has grown rapidly as the industry invested in innovative technological improvement designed to reduce manufacturing and installation costs.

And not surprisingly, the states that have the ideal weather for solar energy – including California and Florida, which has that crucial ingredient, plenty of sunshine – are experiencing the fastest growth in solar power.
Those trends are likely to continue.

That’s a key reason why Solar power is now recognized as a great renewable energy resource that helps reduce the demand for non-renewable energy. And it helps prevent the depletion of those energy resources, while boosting our environment by reducing the amount of emissions from buildings.

And solar energy has been particularly appealing in states that get an abundance of the sun’s rays.

The solar energy industry keeps expanding in Florida. In 2016, Florida voters rejected a ballot referendum supported by the utility industry that critics said would have limited rooftop solar expansion. Several months earlier, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to provide property tax breaks for people who install solar panels on their homes, with 73 percent of Floridians supporting it. The amendment also eliminated Florida’s “tangible personal property tax,” which taxed solar equipment installed on properties, making the leasing of solar systems far more profitable in Florida.

And, with abundant sunshine, solar arrays are getting cheaper, and there are major price declines projected for the next few years.

Why Does Solar Have a Strong Future in Florida?

As a resident of Florida, have you thought about making an investment in solar energy?

A few simple facts to consider:

* Florida has an endless supply of one key ingredient: sunshine

* Solar panels installed on your home can produce plenty of energy

* The average cost charged for solar energy installation in Florida is the lowest in the nation, at $2.90 per watt for cash purchased systems.

Businesses are investing in solar, like Wells Fargo, which has committed the tax-equity funding of $35 million for a new solar generation facility by Walt Disney World, Fl Solar 5.

It’s an exciting development for the solar industry. This facility is expected to include half a million solar panels and is expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 57,000 tons per year – the same as taking 9,300 automobiles off the roads.

This solar project was developed by the solar energy company Origis Energy USA of Miami, which provides custom clean energy solutions for utility, commercial, and public-sector clients. FL Solar 5 is expected to produce and transmit low-cost, renewable electricity that will be purchased by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which covers Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World.

What Other States are Investing in Solar?

This trend isn’t limited to Florida. The other states with the most solar per capita are California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, and Arizona. And solar is expected to become the cheapest source to produce power over the next 15 years, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The report predicted the price of solar power will fall because the cost of installing solar panels at large solar farms and on rooftops will drop by 60 percent to an estimated average of around 4 cents per kilowatt hour by 2040. That will make solar power cheaper than coal and natural gas power in a lot of regions of the country.

There are about 2 million homes in America with solar panels, which sounds low in a nation with 90 million single-family homes.

On the other hand, the country is on track to start adding a million new solar-powered systems each year. The Solar Energies Industries Association is predicting that the number of homes with solar would keep ticking upward each year.

Even outside of states like California and Florida, solar is on the way to become a popular, and cost-effective, option to power our homes. California lawmakers even passed a requirement that new homes include solar panels, which could help make solar as widespread as air conditioning in that state in coming years.

And solar companies are starting to expand beyond California and Florida, into the Midwest, New England, and other colder climate regions.

Most homes with solar panels remain connected to their region’s traditional electric grid, which is helpful during winter days up north when skies get cloudy. Solar panels usually work by producing more energy than is needed, which gets exported to the grid, so when they produce less, a home’s energy supply can be taken from the grid.

However, solar companies say it’s increasingly becoming possible to be 100 percent off the grid. The key to that is energy storage, because it’s always important to have a backup source.

As a flexible energy technology, solar is an industry projected to grow at an impressive rate nationwide in the coming years. No one expects the solar energy train to slow down anything soon.

Solar market analysts believe prices are dropping even faster than expected, making it an appealing option for cost-conscious consumers.

The future looks especially promising for those who may want to use solar power and get off their local electric grid.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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