The Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Pacific Northwest in the United States have one major thing in common – they both get about the same amount of sunshine which translates to “a lot of cloudy days” in plain American English.
In Germany, where the clouds rarely seem to part, there are more photovoltaic installations than anywhere else and it is the third largest producer of solar cells and modules after China and Japan.
So why in the world is Germany the worldwide leader in solar energy and what does that have to do with the Florida Gators?
The answer to that question is Feed-in Tariffs or FIT's.
Now, Germany and the City of Gainesville, Florida have one major thing in common.
Gainesville, in the heart of the Sunshine State, is probably best known for its powerhouse football team – the University of Florida Gators. It is now attracting attention for promoting power of another nature – that being power from the sun - and photovoltaic modules are being installed all over the city. Modeled after the Feed-in Tariff that resulted in Germany’s turbo-charged solar industry, the City of Gainesville was the first in the nation to enact a solar FIT.
The city-owned utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), offers its electric customers—both business and residential—the chance to invest in solar photovoltaic systems and sell all the electricity that they produce directly to GRU. Participants signing up for the program before 2011 will be guaranteed a fixed rate of $0.32 per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced for 20 years, an estimated 4-6 percent return on investment.
The Feed-in Tariff for solar energy is the ultimate renewable energy incentive. A solar FIT means that homeowners or businesses sell all their renewably generated electricity to the utility at a premium price and buy all energy used at retail rates. Wow, imagine the tables turned for once. The major difference between FITs and other energy incentives is that the intent goes beyond just supplying energy—the idea is to promote the use of renewable energy by richly rewarding system owners. Per-kilowatt payments for renewably produced electricity are set higher than conventional market prices for fossil-fuel-based electricity, as an incentive to add renewable energy to the grid.
In Florida there is an organization called “FARE” which stands for the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (www.floridaallianceforrenewableenergy.org). They are a coalition dedicated to educating Floridians about Feed-in Tariffs and other policies that promote the use of renewable energy. The United States would benefit from a national FIT law. A national FIT would encourage more renewable energy in general, create U.S. jobs, and significantly help the national effort to reduce climate changing greenhouse gas emissions…
Go Gators, Go Gainesville, Go Solar.
On October 27, 2009, Rhone Resch - President & CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association -- declared, in the City of Anaheim, California, a Solar Bill of Rights...
And we find it very inspirational!
Here you go...
The Solar Bill of Rights
We declare these rights not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country. We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best.
1. Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses. Restrictive covenants, onerous connection rules, and excessive permitting and inspections fees prevent many American homes and businesses from going solar.
2. Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards. This should be as simple as connecting a telephone or appliance. No matter where they live, consumers should expect a single standard for connecting their system to the electric grid.
3. Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates. When customers generate excess solar power utilities should pay them consumer at least the retail value of that power.
4. The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment. The highly profitable fossil fuel industries have received tens of billions of dollars for decades. The solar energy expects a fair playing field, especially since the American public overwhelmingly supports the development and use of solar.
5. The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands. America has the best solar resources in the world, yet solar companies have zero access to public lands compared to the 45 million acres used by oil and natural gas companies.
6. The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines. When America updates its electric grid, it must connect the vast solar resources in the Southwest to population centers across the nation.
7. Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility. Consumers have no choice to buy clean, reliable solar energy from their utilities instead of the dirty fossil fuels of the past.
8. Americans have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry. Consumers should expect the solar energy industry to minimize its environmental impact, provide systems that work better than advertised, and communicate incentives clearly and accurately.
Resch is president & CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. He made this statement before a gathering of thousands of industry professionals at the Solar Power International conference.
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