Solar power in Florida

Consumer confidence in generating and using renewables increases each year, according to electric utility reports filed with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Customer-owned renewable energy grew 40 percent last year with 3,994 systems, up from 2,833 in 2010. Statewide, electric generation capacity from these systems reached approximately 29,259 kilowatts (kW), up from 20,403 kW in 2010.

Florida’s PSC assisted this growth by establishing rules in 2007 that promote development of customer-owned renewable generation. By making it easier for customers to interconnect their system with the utility’s grid, the PSC’s net metering rules encourage customer use of clean renewable generation that also lowers their utility bills. Since the first year of reporting, the number of renewable systems has seen more than a sevenfold increase.

"As more and more consumers benefit from the PSC’s net metering rules, Florida’s economy and environment are also reaping rewards," said PSC Chairman Ronald A. Brise. "Increased use of renewables helps create jobs within the industry, diversify Florida’s fuel supply, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Solar photovoltaic panels continue to be the most popular renewable choice with 3,966 customer-owned systems in Florida; however, 27 customers have wind turbines and one has an anaerobic digester. Anaerobic digestion is a multi-step process that uses microorganisms to break down organic material to form methane and carbon dioxide gases, which are used to generate electricity.

Since customers with a renewable system sometimes generate more energy than they use in a billing cycle, the PSC’s net metering rules require that any excess energy delivered to the utility be credited on the customers’ next bill. Florida’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs)-Florida Power & Light Company, Progress Energy Florida, Inc., Tampa Electric Company, and Gulf Power Company-are required by the rules to offer an expedited interconnection agreement process so that homeowners and businesses interested in generating their own energy can do so quickly.

Customers who receive their electricity from a municipal electric utility or a rural electric cooperative also have renewable generation incentives. Every Florida municipal and cooperative that sells electricity at retail is required, by statute, to provide a standardized interconnection agreement and net metering program for customer-owned renewable generation systems.

Florida’s utilities reported the following information on customer-owned renewable generation for 2008-2011.

Residents interested in learning more about interconnecting renewable generation systems or net metering should contact their local utility for procedures and eligibility requirements.

To help encourage the development of solar energy in Florida, the PSC approved IOU solar energy pilot programs that provide customer rebates to offset some installation costs for solar photovoltaic and solar hot water heating systems. The programs also provide solar energy equipment to low-income customers and to schools. Approved through 2014, the pilot programs include an annual expenditure cap to limit the rate impact to all customers.