The Sunshine State is beginning to see record growth in home solar installations, according to a recent report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
SUN SENTINEL -- The report cited recent policy developments in Florida that are projected to nearly quadruple the amount of home solar capacity over the next half-decade.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Energy study shows reductions in pollution from clean energy prevented 7,000 lost lives and saved $56 billion in healthcare costs in the United States from 2007-2015. Imagine the cost savings and environmental benefits that Florida could achieve with more households embracing the use of solar energy.
The Public Service Commission’s April 20 decision to allow Sunrun to offer its “solar-as-a-service” gives Floridians an option starting from zero down to install solar energy equipment on their homes and begin saving money immediately. This new model for residential solar challenges preconceived notions about the affordability of solar energy products, providing greater access to alternative energy for more Floridians.
On Friday, July 13, professionals working in emergency management, urban planning, sustainability, and resilience from across South Florida gathered at a post-disaster redevelopment planning workshop hosted by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in Fort Lauderdale, where they focused on “how climate resilience efforts can be integrated into and inform emergency management efforts.”
In hurricane-prone areas, rooftop solar and home batteries carry an additional benefit: greater resiliency during power outages while customers of traditional utilities are left in the dark.
One powerful example was during Hurricane Irma when solar-paired battery systems kept the lights on in 115 schools across Florida which had been converted into shelters housing thousands of residents. By offering local, decentralized power, these Floridians were able to stay safe and connected while 6.7 million utility customers surrounding them had no power.
Solar energy was also indispensable to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Solar and battery systems provided by Sunrun along with nonprofits Empowered By Light and GivePower ensured fire stations could continue to provide essential emergency services to people across the island. These essential services have had uninterrupted solar energy power since installation, helping the island endure the longest blackout in American history. With solar-as-a-service now available on the island as well, Puerto Ricans now have peace of mind during outages and the freedom to create and store energy to power their homes.
Whether households choose to buy solar-as-a-service or the equipment outright, rooftop solar reduces the cost of producing and consuming electricity for everyone. Locally-generated energy means eliminating transmission and distribution costs, which frequently exceed the cost to generate the electricity itself. And with more than 70 percent of America’s transmission lines and large power transformers at least 25 years old, investing in locally-generated resources saves us from wasting money by doubling down on yesterday’s outdated infrastructure.
The Public Service Commission is preparing to make recommendations to state utilities for improving their hurricane preparedness and power restoration procedures following a storm. One early version of their report noted that “despite substantial, well documented improvement, customers were dissatisfied with the extent of outages and restoration times. The public’s expectations are rising, indicating resilience and restoration will have to continually improve.”
One of the report’s recommendations is to place more power lines underground, which according to the top utility trade organization will cost roughly ten times the amount of building overhead power lines. Those costs will ultimately be passed on to households and will further perpetuate the cycle of investing in infrastructure without advancing efficiency or environmental benefits. Wider implementation of locally-generated power, such as rooftop solar paired with home batteries, is an indispensable component of any sound plan to make Florida more resilient after a storm. And it reduces the need for those expensive lines in the first place.
In a post-2016 election clean energy survey, 84 percent of respondents felt America should lower our dependence on fossil fuels while pursuing energy efficiency. Even more resounding, 86 percent of respondents said they would support acting to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.
These numbers show that people recognize that we have an opportunity to radically remake our energy infrastructure into a more affordable, resilient and environmentally sustainable system.
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