is at the forefront of the rooftop solar industry. One of the key
reasons is a novel approach to financing the systems it installs.
However, solar hasn't yet taken the country by storm. Some states
have more installations than others, and it isn't playing out the
way you might expect. For example, the Northeast has more solar
going on than the much sunnier Southeast. Why?
The sleeping giant
SolarCity spokesman Will Craven describes Florida as the
"sleeping giant" of the solar industry. That's because there's
lots of sun, lots of roofs, plenty of customer requests, and
still no solar industry to speak of. In 2013, for example,
Florida installed a whopping 26 megawatts of solar power, enough
to place it 18th on the list of largest solar installers.
Now juxtapose that against the fact that, according to the Solar
Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Florida ranks third for
To provide a more direct reference point, No. 1 installer
California put up nearly 3.75 gigawatts of solar last year. Even
No. 4 installer Massachusetts, a state not exactly associated
with its sun, put up nearly 240 megawatts of solar, much more
than the Sunshine State.
So what's going on? Here's one reason: Would you pay as much
as $40,000 to install a solar system on your roof? Even a small
system will set you back nearly $20,000. That's a lot of cash up
front, no to mention the headache of getting the project through
local red tape.
(Source: ReubenGBrewer, via Wikimedia Commons)
That's why companies like Sunrun (which provides the above
estimates on its website) and SolarCity are having such an
impact. These installers take care of the permitting,
construction, and upfront cost, leasing the systems or selling
their power (via a power purchase agreement) to the homeowner.
That makes solar a viable option when you don't happen to have
$40k kicking around.
So what about Florida
Even with this, the math works better in states that support
solar with rules that force local utilities to buy excess power
from rooftop solar systems, known as distributed power, and in
states in which incentives help cover the cost of
However, some utilities complain that being forced to buy
electricity from customer rooftops costs them more than it
benefits them, and that customers without solar end up paying the
cost. While regulators in many states have decided that
supporting solar is worth the ire of power generators, others are
For example, when a college in Virginia wanted to install
solar power on its rooftops it was sued by the local power
company. The power company essentially won, as the college
altered its lease agreements to forgo tax benefits. The end
result was that the ultimate cost of the solar system went up.
It's far easier for a large entity like a college to cover the
cost of a solar installation than the average Joe.
(Source: ReubenGBrewer, via Wikimedia Commons)
Now back to the Sunshine State. Florida has no renewable power
mandates for utilities, which means there's little incentive for
a utility to cooperate or help customers become erstwhile
competitors. And Florida doesn't allow power purchase agreements,
one of the key financial arrangements that installers like
SolarCity rely on. In other words, Florida has major road blocks
to wider solar adoption.
And Florida isn't alone, for example while the SEIA
highlighted that 37 states had some form of renewable mandate, or
at least goals, in early 2013, the Southeast (spanning from
Louisiana to South Carolina) was notably devoid of these solar
supporting initiatives. Only three of the six states had
mandatory net metering rules last year (one had voluntary utility
programs). In the end, only one state from the Southeast, Georgia
(90 MW), made the top 10 in solar installations in 2013.
Action via inaction
While it would be hard to suggest that states are actively
looking to stop solar progress, there are times when doing
nothing is really doing something. And by making the choice not
to support solar installations as strongly as other states, or at
all in some instances, the U.S. Southeast has made it very
difficult for those who want solar on their rooftops to get
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Why Are These U.S. States Fighting Solar
originally appeared on Fool.com.
has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool
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