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.
There are a number of things to consider including good sunlight, financial incentives, net-metering policies, cost of materials, and high electric rates...
We all know that three consecutive days of cloudy, rainy weather in the Sunshine State is rare and when it does occur many of us begin to suffer from light affective disorder (myself included). In fact, the sunlight in our part of Florida is some of the best in the country. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, Florida has 85% of the maximum solar resource of any location in the country (7.2 kWh/day out of a maximum of 8.5 kWh/day).
The federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar systems has had such a big impact on the solar market since 2006 that Congress extended it for 8 years in 2008 and dropped the cap for residential systems. The solar tax credit reduces the retail cost of an installed system by 30% and you receive the credit when you file your taxes (it is not a grant). At the state level, Florida offers rebates for solar electric (PV) and solar hot water. For residential PV installations the state rebate is $20,000 for up to 5 kilowatts and for commercial PV installations (10 kilowatt or more) investors receive a rebate of $100,000. In addition to rebates and commercial tax credits, commercial customers of a grid-tied PV system are also entitled to five-year, accelerated depreciation for projects completed in 2009. The State of Florida also provides grants from the Governor’s Energy Office for solar water heaters, solar electric systems and solar pool heaters.
Both LCEC and FPL have enacted net-metering policies for grid-tied, PV systems. Under net metering, electric meters turn backwards when PV systems generate electricity in excess of the demand. This means that their customers receive retail prices for the excess electricity they generate. The kilowatt-hours generated are credited to the next bill at retail rate. At the end of a 12-month billing cycle the utility then pays for solar generated electricity at avoided-cost rate.
Cost of materials…
The price of modules have declined sharply this year but according to Solarbuzz (a portal to worldwide solar data) the trend downward has slowed. The demand for photovoltaic modules was high in 2008 so manufacturers increased production. Then the global recession hit the solar industry so in the beginning of 2009 there were plenty of modules on the market which resulted in lower prices. Just remember when you are comparing prices of modules that brand, technical attributes, and certifications do matter.
High electric rates…
Nationwide, electricity rates have increased an average of 4.4% per year over the past 35 years, twice that rate in some parts of the country. The energy from the sun is free so rates will never increase!
An analysis of the factors influencing an investment in solar reveals that solar energy does pay in Southwest Florida.
It makes economic sense for many but only a hard look at the numbers and a physical analysis of the property will tell if it makes sense for you.
Be sure to visit our web site at www.FafcoSolar.com to learn more about the all of the Solar Energy products available to you.
A photo of our building back in late 70's!
In 2002, I decided to renovate our 25 year old, Fafco Solar building in Cape Coral...
In doing so, I tried to use as many green products and practices as I could afford...
Problem #1: I didn’t know anything about green building.
Problem #2: I didn’t know anyone else who did.
So, I had to go to Sarasota to find someone who had some knowledge and experience with green building.
Unfortunately, after his one visit to my shop, he never called back and I could never get him to return my calls. So, I was forced to search for another builder.
Eventually, I decided to use a local builder.
One I was familiar with, even though he had no knowledge or experience in green building. I had known him and his wife for many years. They both knew my father and on occasion he played cards with him. They also knew my son. They had a good reputation and I liked them.
So, I educated myself a little and told my builder what I wanted in the building. He thought some of my green ideas were strange but he did as I requested. When all was done, I was happy with my decision.
Unknowingly, my decision to renovate my existing building, rather than move and build somewhere else, was my first green decision.
By far, the most visible and impressive green aspect of the building is the 21 solar lights (tubular skylights) installed throughout the building. They allow the employees to work in natural daylight almost all day long without using any electricity... and they love it.
It also is a great demonstration of a product we offer.
People who visit are usually quite surprised when we tell them there’s no electric lights on. Stop in and take a look for yourself when you’re in the neighborhood!
All interior walls were painted with no VOC paint. (That stands for volatile organic compounds.) It wasn’t hard to find...even in 2002. We just had to ask for it.
We sprayed foam under the roof and into the block walls of the air conditioned portion of the building. During construction, it was noticeably cooler under the foamed portion of the roof.
We reused lumber from the deconstruction of the old shop in the new offices.
We installed a tankless water heater to eliminate stand-by losses since we hardly ever use hot water.
We also installed a dual flush toilet, a water cooled air conditioner, low E windows, tile floors (except in two offices) and ceiling tiles made with partially recycled content.
On the outside, we planted native plants.
After moving into our newly renovated offices, we started improving our personal green habits, too. We, now, recycle almost all our paper, plastic, aluminum, glass and copper items.
Ultimately, my goal is to use zero fossil fuel within ten years. That would be a wonderful achievement! There’s still more to do, but we’re well on our way!
If YOU are interested in doing the same, contact me and we’ll make a plan to do it!
Energy independence is definitely possible!
For more information on green building, check out these links:
Have fun 'going green with renewable energy products', I sure did!
The most common question about solar energy deserves the right answer...
If you’ve ever asked yourself --
“Why isn’t there more solar energy used in Florida?”
you’re not alone!
In the 35 years I’ve worked in the solar industry here in Florida, that’s the most common question I hear.
The question is often followed with some version of: “I guess it’s just still too expensive.”
It’s a good question, but the right answer requires you to dig a little deeper. So, instead of just agreeing and letting you off the hook, I’m inclined to reply: “YOU know why.”
Then, I wait and let you think a little while I nod my head and look directly at you with narrowed eyes and a slight smile. When I see you start to fog up, I continue, “It’s because the utilities and the politicians don’t want you to use solar energy.”
Oh, you say. It’s pretty obvious and no one ever disagrees.
Within the last couple months, though, we're fortunate enough to have some help from the top, and I'm excited!
You know in your heart we should be using the beautiful gift the sun gives freely to all. It defies logic and common sense that Florida ignores its natural beauty.
The frustration is always audible. Solar energy is so obviously good and right.
Here are a couple organizations trying to help the people get their fair share of solar energy:
Florida is the Sunshine State, after all, right?!
This phot is of photovoltaic panels in Spain... and WOW, it's a really good one!
Today, I discovered this excellent article by National Geographic called "Plugging into the Sun"...
It explains how sunlight provides us with much more energy than we'd ever need - and slowly we're starting to tap into it!
It also reviews the two main ways to harness the energy as well:
- produce steam,
- convert to electricity with photovoltaic (PV) panels (be sure to check out our PV solutions on our web site to learn more!
Is Florida "FIT" for Solar?
Like many, you may feel that solar energy remains a distant dream, and that it's:
- too expensive to afford, or
- too hard to implement.
Feed In Tariffs (FIT) could change all of that...
FIT could bring the use of solar energy to life for MILLIONS of people in the US.
What is FIT?
FIT (Feed In Tariff) is an incentive structure to encourage the adoption of renewable energy through government legislation. Basically, the government offers home and business owners payments for electricity they feed into the electric grid.
Germany developed a FIT program in 1999 and because of that they are now the #1 photovoltaic country in the world… with 50% of the world’s photovoltaic market!
The good news?
FIT incentives are now starting to gain momentum in North America.
Gainesville, Florida was the 1st city in U.S. to implement FIT policies.
In their program, the Gainesville utility pays home owners $.32/kWh for energy that is fed into the grid, read about it here.
And everyone is watching to see what can be learned from them.
And Ontario’s new Green Energy Act pays a whopping .80/kWh! That's amazing! Learn more by reading this News Release.
The Florida Alliance of Renewable Energy (FARE) is a grassroots organization leading the way in Florida in support of FIT incentives… although, in Florida, FIT is called RED (Renewable Energy Dividends).
Both the State of Florida and the U.S. Congress are debating the benefits of FIT programs. If you want to learn more or help spread the word, go to the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy.
FIT programs will help solar energy become a dream come true for millions of people in the U.S!
“Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach Sand Removal
to Provide Clean Energy to West Virginia!”
How would you like it if the beaches of Florida were dug up to provide energy for West Virginia?
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is, in essence, what Florida is doing to West Virginia.
A significant portion of the energy Florida uses is produced by coal from West Virginia. The coal is “mined” by blowing up mountains!
The people of West Virginia don’t really like their mountains being destroyed.
The question is… do you care?
If so, what are you going to do about it?
Once you watch this movie, Kilowatt Ours, you’ll understand:
• where does most of your energy comes from?
• what harm does it cause?
• what are your options?
Oh, and by the way, here's another interest related resource I found recently:
Learn more by searching for "mountaintop removal" on Google.com.
Have a great day,
I used to say solar energy was not good for moving things.
It was good for heating water or making electricity, but not for transportation.
But with this new Electric Hybrid Vehicle... and after checking out www.calcars.org to learn about electric vehicles (EVs), I’ve done a complete 180!
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you check out:
Who Killed the Electric Car?
After 30 years of being in the solar industry, I was so wrong about what I thought solar energy could do.
So, if I could have a wrong perception about solar energy after 30 years, I guess I can understand that YOU too could have a misconception about solar energy.
I think there’s a lot of people that don’t fully understand solar energy:
- How it works...
- What it can, and can’t do…
- When it could be applicable…
- Affordable… and
- A host of other questions.
But there’s a huge belief that solar energy is a good thing… a VERY good thing, in fact.
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