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Fact Check: Is Florida's Solar Power Ability Limited By 'Quite Low' Sunshine?

solar exposure map
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jacksonville City Councilman and Republican mayoral candidate Bill Bishop was on WJCT's "First Coast Connect" call-in show this week. When a listener asked Bishop why there's not more solar power in Florida, he said a low amount of sunshine is a big factor. But research shows Florida actually has above-average solar potential and production.

When the listener asked  Bishop what he'd do to promote solar energy use, his answer began, "We are the 'Sunshine State.' However it is a misnomer. We are not necessarily the best state or the best region to capitalize on solar energy. The actual amount of sunshine that we get is quite low. You'd be surprised at it."

That statement is partially true. Humid Florida doesn't get as much sunlight as dry Southwestern states, Southern California and West Texas do.

"They all have a lot more solar potential than Florida does," says, Ted Kury, energy studies director at the University of Florida's Public Utility Research Center. So, he says Bishop is right: Florida isn't the best place for solar power to flourish. But it's far from the worst place either. And if you look at how much solar power was generated through November of last year, Florida was far ahead of most states.

"There are only eight states in the whole country that produced more electricity from solar power than we did," Kury says. 

In fact, Florida produced more than twice the amount of solar power as Georgia did. But despite that level of output, Kury says, he often hears misstatements about Florida's "low" solar production, many times from advocates pushing for more solar. He says, the Sunshine State is living up to its name more than many people realize. 

Top 10 Solar Energy Producers Through November 2014:

  1. California (9,545,015 MWh) 
  2. Arizona (2,836,839 MWh)
  3. Nevada (955,299 MWh)
  4. North Carolina (806,254 MWh)
  5. New Jersey (671,686 MWh)
  6. New Mexico (505,731 MWh)
  7. Massachusetts (346,725 MWh)
  8. Texas (257,143 MWh)
  9. Florida (247,496 MWh)
  10. Colorado (236,921 MWh)

?Source: Ted Kury, Director of Energy Studies, UF Public Utility Research Center

And for more on the factors that influence Florida's solar power use, check out WLRN's report, "Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?"

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