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First Coast Connect

Solar Power Advocates To Rally At Florida State Capitol

Troy Cryder

We’re called the Sunshine State, but does Florida do enough to harness solar energy?College students, solar industry developers, faith leaders and more are headed to Tallahassee to rally support for solar energy. Activists say Florida has massive solar power potential, but lags behind other states in solar energy development.

Dr. Stephen Smith with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and David Zierden, State Climatologist at the Florida Climate Center at Florida State University joined Karen Feagins to discuss the potential for solar power in Florida.

Smith said Florida has the best solar potential of any state east of the Mississippi River and is ranked third in the country for market potential of solar energy.

Despite those numbers, in 2013 the state fell back to 18th place for solar installations.

"It is falling back, and losing, and not taking advantage of it's full potential," he said.

Advocates will rally in Tallahassee on Thursday to encourage state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to support solar energy.

One of the items on their agenda is the passage of a bill to put a referendum on this year's ballot that would abolish the state's "tangible property tax," allowing companies to offer residents third-party leasing of solar power systems.

The proposal has seen support in the Senate, but it is being held up in committee in the House.

"The reality is that there are a lot of very powerful forces unfortunately aligned against solar because a number of the investor-owned utilities, like Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and others have a financial interest in not wanting to see people generate their own power, because they want to sell the power to people instead," Smith said.

State Climatologist David Zierden said anything that could be done to put less carbon into the atmosphere would be beneficial to everyone, everywhere.

"The solar potential that the state of Florida has is really being not tapped like it should be," he said.

Zierden said that while the rest of the world has gotten warmer, the Southeast U.S. has instead seen changes in rainfall patterns, which could be even more impactful than temperature changes.

"As climate change continues, it really gets a lot more uncertain what the trajectory of our climate here in the Southeast and Florida will be," he said.

"There's so much uncertainty, we really need to be resilient to it and anticipate a whole wide range of changes that may be possible."

You can follow Karen Feagins on Twitter @karenfeagins and Patrick Donges @patrickhdonges.

Karen found her home in public broadcasting after working for several years as a commercial television reporter. She joinedWJCTin 2005 as the host of 89.9 FM’s Morning Edition and has held many different roles at the station in both radio and television. She has written and produced documentaries includingBeluthahatchee: The Legacy of Stetson Kennedy and Jacksonville Beach: Against the Tide and directed the oral history project, Voices of the First Coast.
Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.