The Sunshine State? Not Yet

I spent the first 22 years of my life in the great state of Florida.  One day I might return for good too (the smart money is when I'm retired and can find some land inland that will be beachfront property in 40 years with the rising sea levels).  But likely not anytime soon.

A lot of people in Florida are amazed that solar energy is bigger in places like Massachusetts or Oregon where the sun doesn't shine as often or as intense (insolation is as much of a part of the amount of energy you get as the amount of time it's sunny) as it does in the "Sunshine State".  They think solar is something that is far off in the future because they don't see it as popular in the state where it should rightfully be.  

While there are some realistic reasons why solar is not as popular in sunny Florida as it is in sunny California or Arizona (such as hurricane winds making the structural supports a bit more difficult than normal or the amount of intermittent cloud coverage making power fluctuations more frequent), the real reason is because the local Southeast power companies making the battle EXTREMELY uphill for solar.  They are in the legislators back pockets and wield A LOT of monetary "power" (the other kind).  

They won't be able to fight off common sense forever but they'll do a good job of putting the state well behind the curve when it comes to solar adoption.  Here is a quote from a SolarCity spokesperson in a recent article about the subject:

"We get all kinds of inquiries every day" from the South, said Will Craven, spokesman for SolarCity. "People there want to be our customers."

Florida, in particular, is known as the "sleeping giant" of his industry, Craven said. "It has a ton of sunshine, a ton of rooftops," he said. "But there is no rooftop solar industry in Florida."

In the south, utilities are fighting very hard to prevent solar, all the while maintaining the public image that they want it and are doing everything in the public's best interests, not their own profits.  I'll end on this note from the same article:

Officials at Dominion Virginia Power say they are moving as aggressively as they can to promote solar in a heavily regulated, fiscally conservative state reluctant to subsidize homeowners who go green.

Nearly two years ago, the company launched a pilot program that mimics the SolarCity and Sunrun models for leasing solar equipment to businesses. So far, two systems have been installed.

"It might sound small," said Dianne Corsello, manager of customer solutions at Dominion, but she says regulators want to see evidence that such programs will not create unreasonable costs for the utility.

"We are studying the impacts and assessing the benefits to our grid," she said. "It is providing an opportunity to get data."

Solar installation firms scoff at such utility programs. Sunrun Vice President Bryan Miller calls the Dominion rooftop effort "a make-believe program" designed for public relations, not to entice customers to install panels.