Report: Jacksonville Lags In Rooftop Solar, Despite Being In Sunshine State

Sep 4, 2020

A new report finds just over a half-percent of Jacksonville’s buildings have rooftop solar.

That’s despite solar's making up 40% of new electricity generating capacity added in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2020.

The report by the home improvement company Porch found 0.6% of Jacksonville rooftops have solar, although 82.2% of rooftops could support the zero-emission power generating technology.

In Jacksonville, 245,358 buildings are considered solar-viable, according to the study.

Depending on the size of a rooftop solar installation, excess power may also be generated and automatically sent back to the utility, later appearing as a credit or reimbursement on the customer’s bill.

Solar United Neighbors, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Earthjustice filed a motion last year for summary judgement regarding their lawsuit against Jacksonville’s municipal utility, JEA, and its decision to roll back a nearly decade-old solar "net metering" program. That case is ongoing.

Net metering is a billing methodology by which customer-owned renewable energy generation is allowed to offset the cost of their electricity consumption.

Advocates claim that JEA’s decision to roll back net metering has slowed solar adoption by taking away the financial incentive for installing solar panels.

JEA counters it stills credits its solar customers for power sent back to the grid by calculating the retail power rate, “which consists of the fuel cost, conservation and environmental charges.” Previously customers were reimbursed at a significantly higher rate. Existing net metering customers were "grandfathered" into the discontinued plan when the updated policy was instituted.

Additional Information: JEA’s Net Metering Program Webpage

Solar United Neighbors has claimed that JEA’s revised policy reduces the value of rooftop solar and doubles the amount of time it takes for solar customers to recoup the cost of their investment.

Jacksonville was ranked 27th for rooftop solar adoption among large cities by Porch. By comparison, San Jose, Calif., the top-ranked city, has 6.4% of rooftops that are generating solar power.

Jacksonville is expected to see a small spike in solar rooftops. eTown, a master-planned community being built next to I-295 on the city’s Southside, has pledged that one of its neighborhoods will be filled with solar rooftops. The Kettering neighborhood is scheduled to be a collection of 40 to 50 homes that will be Zero Energy Ready.

Credit Google Project Sunroof / Via Porch.com

The U.S. now has over 2 million solar photovoltaic installations, which produce enough electricity each year to power more than 12 million homes, according to the report.

Looking at the report's methodology, for a roof to be considered solar-viable, it must be able to accommodate at least four adjacent solar panels, with a total potential installation size of at least 2kW.

Read the full Porch report.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.