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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


Putting the Sun in Sunshine State?  Florida’s About-Face on Solar Power

Solar power has long been a pet issue for progressives and environmentalists.  But in Florida, utilities are starting to embrace the technology for economic reasons.

Workers put the final touches on Florida Power & Light's newest solar farm (Credit: Alfredo Solsa/Staff) Click to Enlarge.

There’s a new crop sprouting in southern Florida.  Amid fields of sweet corn, squash, and okra dotting the landscape outside Miami, rows and rows of solar panels now soak up the Florida sunshine.  Azure skies tinge the deep black solar cells blue.  They stand like silent sentinels awaiting activation.

On a windy day in mid-January, only some panels are turning the golden rays into electricity for testing.  Elsewhere in the 465-acre field, construction workers in fluorescent vests and hard hats step through weeds to reach clusters of wires dangling at the ends of each row, waiting to be connected to the rest of the facility.

Despite being the Sunshine State, Florida has long lagged when it comes to tapping into the abundant rays overhead.  But now that is changing as utility companies in the state have begun to recognize solar power as a vital component of a diverse energy future.

“The utilities are putting out solar like you wouldn’t believe,” says James Fenton, director of the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.

Florida power companies haven’t always been so solar-friendly.  In 2016 the industry spent $20 million on a ballot initiative that could have undercut the expansion of residential solar power.  But as solar has become more economically viable, the state’s utility companies now see opportunity more than competition in the technology.

Florida utilities’ newfound embrace for solar power echoes trends seen across the country, as the renewable energy source has shifted from a fringe indulgence for wealthy environmentalists to becoming a conventional part of power production.

“Five years ago it was more of an emerging technology,” says Maggie Clark, senior manager of state affairs for the Southeast region at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).  “As it’s become a mainstream energy resource,” she says, “there’s an element of comfort with it [for utilities,] as just any other generating asset.”

With abundant sunshine, Florida ranks ninth in the United States for solar potential.  But as recently as 2015, just one-tenth of a percent of the state’s power came from the sun.

But something recently shifted.

Read more at Putting the Sun in Sunshine State?  Florida’s About-Face on Solar Power

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