It often surprises people to hear that Florida, frequently referred to as “the Sunshine State,” is not the top state for solar. However, while California may hold the #1 spot for the U.S. solar market, Florida is undoubtedly one of the country’s leading states for home solar power.
Why is solar energy so popular in Florida?
Solar power in the state of Florida has become a frequent conversation topic in recent months due to the controversial solar amendment on the 2016 election ballot. Florida residents were responsible for a major win for the state’s solar industry after they rejected a misleading amendment that would have hiked rates for solar homeowners and blocked new companies from entering the PV market.
In a sense, the startling amount of money contributed by state utilities to fund the ballot measure (over $20 million) illustrated the fear those utilities have for solar’s potential in the Sunshine State. The PV market is heating up in Florida – GTM forecasts 1900 percent growth in Florida solar capacity over the next five years. Instead of choosing to adapt to solar growth, Florida utilities attempted to block its growth through a misinformation campaign. Now that the latter has failed, they will have no choice but to accept the bold future for solar in their state.
Another reason for solar energy’s strong presence in Florida is the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research division of the University of Coastal Florida (UCF). The FSEC boasts a massive research and development operation focused on improving solar technologies. It has received a number of impressive awards including the Million Solar Roof’s Best Progress Award and the Energy Star for Homes Outstanding Achievement Award. The FSEC has contributed a significant amount of technical innovation to the solar PV industry, and it has undoubtedly been influential in driving solar growth in the state of Florida.
What do solar panels cost in Florida?
Though Florida customers can expect to see prices plummet over the next five years, current solar prices are among the lowest in the U.S. market. The average solar panel system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts, so to get a range for the average price of solar in Florida we examined average prices for 5kW systems after tax rebates. The current price range is between $8,505 – $11,305 in Florida, far below the national average for cost of solar at $12,500.
A major financial reason for the popularity of home solar power in Florida is centered around the great solar incentives in the state. Every major state utility offers net-metering – a major “make or break” factor for the economics of solar.
Net metering applies to homeowners connected to the grid who have solar panels installed. It allows those homeowners to receive credits on their electric bills for surplus energy produced by their solar system. In a sense, net metering allows you to use the grid to store your energy for free. This is what makes solar a truly efficient and pragmatic option, because you can then cover 100 percent of your energy needs over the course of a year. Without net metering, most homeowners have to opt for another storage option like a solar battery.
Furthermore, the pressure on Florida homeowners to meet 100 percent of energy demand from solar is much lower than in many other states in the U.S. because Florida’s electricity prices are fairly low. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA), the average cost of energy in Florida actually decreased year over year in 2016. Now at 11.47 cents per kilowatt-hour (a common metric used to compare energy prices), the cost of energy in Florida is significantly below the national average of 12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Low electricity prices can actually make solar more appealing for Florida solar homeowners who have access to net metering, because there is less pressure to perfectly size your solar system. If a resident gets a system that is on the smaller side and only ends up covering 75 percent of his or her energy needs, his or her new bill payment will still be very minimal in winter months when sun is less prevalent and the payback period might be as quick as five years for the solar panels on their roof.
Finding the Top Solar Installers in Florida
Ultimately, solar will make sense for most homeowners in Florida (depending on roof size, orientation, and shading). Thus the main variables for Florida homeowners to consider are what their specific solar panel system would cost, what type of equipment they would want and how to find the right solar company to do the installation. The EnergySage Solar Calculator offers personalized instant estimates based on real bids in your area and the size and angle of your roof. In order to see what installers are active in your county or town, register your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to begin comparing quotes from pre-screened installers near you.