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Anti-Amendment 1 Solar-Powered Boat Tour Sets Sail In Florida

A traveling protest against Florida’s solar Amendment 1 launched Tuesday in Jacksonville.  The boat covered in solar panels will stop in high-trafficked areas as it heads south.

The boat’s called the Archimedes, or, to Capt. Carter Quillen, “the ark.”

“Welcome aboard the world’s largest solar-powered, concrete boat,” he says Tuesday at the docks of Metropolitan Park on the St. Johns River. “It’s actually the world’s smallest solar-powered, concrete boat too.”  

Solar panels line the roof, and along the side is big banner that says “Vote No on 1.”

“The idea is that people are going to be like, ‘Why is the solar boat against the solar amendment?’” says Quillen, a self-described “amateur activist.” He says he and his wife have lived on the boat for four years.

On this tour, he’s partnering with groups against Amendment 1, like Florida Solar United Neighborhoods and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which are planning attention-grabbing stunts at each tour stop.

Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News
An activist with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy poses as the Monopoly man next to the Archimedes in Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, one activist donned a giant Monopoly man papier-mâché head and black suit and pantomimed covering up the “No on 1” sign. Their message: The amendment is fueled by greed.

Quillen says voters should think about who’s funding the pro-Amendment 1 Consumers for Smart Solar campaign. For-profit utility companies and their allies have poured more than $21 million into getting it passed. He says, that’s because they’re afraid of losing money on electricity if solar takes off.

“So I guess if you own stock in Florida Power and Light, you might want to vote yes on Amendment 1. But for everyone else, it’s not a good thing,” he says.

Amendment 1 would put the right to use solar power in the state constitution. But it also would protect non-solar customers from subsidizing solar users. Consumers for Smart Solar spokesman Screven Watson told WJCT last week the amendment is all about consumer protection.

But that protection could allow utilities to undo current solar-friendly policies like net metering, which is utilities’ crediting solar users for extra power they generate. Or it could lead utilities to charge solar customers more to make sure non-solar customers aren't subsidizing them. 

The "No on 1" solar boat tour is continuing south down the Intracoastal Waterway.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP