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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

7.12.2015

SOLAR CHOICE IS A SIMPLE CHOICE, EXCEPT WHEN IT'S NOT

Supporting community solar is an easy choice.  Most advocates of renewables believe that the current models of power distribution in the US will not serve our population in the future.  The large grid systems with the ineffieciencies of huge transmission lines, the dependence on coal and gas, the monopolies of mega investor owned utilities are but a few reasons. 

Florida is one of only four states that prohibits distributed solar power as an option for consumers. In Florida, a citizen petition drive to change this is being lead by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and backed by dozens of interest groups, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition and the League of Women Voters. The amendment would allow homeowners and businesses to sell up to two megawatts of solar power and prohibit the state from erecting any barriers to a rooftop solar market in Florida. They propose an amendment to the Florida constitution that:
Limits or prevents government and electric utility imposed barriers to supplying local solar electricity. Local solar electricity supply is the non-utility supply of solar generated electricity from a facility rated up to 2 megawatts to customers at the same or contiguous property as the facility.Barriers include government regulation of local solar electricity suppliers’ rates, service and territory, and unfavorable electric utility rates, charges, or terms of service imposed on local solar electricity customers. 

The full text of the petition is here:  http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/64491-1.pdf

The amendment is being challenged and the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in September to decide if the citizens’ initiative will go before voters.

It is unsurprising that large private and municipally-owned utility companies, which pay franchise fees in order to be the exclusive source of electric power in cities across the state would object to the proposed amendment. They argue that if third parties are allowed to sell solar power, many of their franchise agreements would be void.

In June, however, the League of Cities joined with the Florida Municipal Electric Association in urging the court to reject the proposal, saying the loss of local revenue and the impact on city government violated the constitutional provision requiring proposed amendments to involve only a single subject.

Then, it got even more complicated when 17 elected officials from 13 cities — including Pinecrest, Hallandale Beach, South Miami, St. Petersburg, Largo and Apopka — filed a protest, accusing the League of Cities of being led by powerful for-profit utilities and demanding that it withdraw the brief. Basically these cities said the League didn't have a consensus of its membership before it joined the lawsuit.  

Then, John Thomas, League of Cities Director, said that the League was acting in the best interest of its member cities. This is explained in detail in the Miami Herald's article:  

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article26819602.html

Now, a small Miami area city, Coral Gables has filed its own brief in objection to the amendment, while at the same time disagreeing with the League's actions.  Coral Gables says that the amendment could “potentially restrict or prohibit the ability of the City of Coral Gables to promote solar power usage” by preventing its zoning laws from protecting its signature look with local aesthetic standards through its architectural review board process.

Any of you who have visited the City of Coral Gables understand what "local aesthetics and signature look" they are talking about.  It is a community of tasteful, VERY tasteful signage for businesses of all sorts.  No tangle of glaring neon signs and ever taller billboards.  No, in Coral Gables each business has the same small sign announcing the name of their business at its entrance and nothing more.   

The City of Coral Gables did, however, did recently became the first city in the State to start a pilot program in October to offer a standardized permitting process that will expedite projects to install solar photovoltaic cells.  It is very likely that the City will require very, VERY tasteful solar collectors within its jurisdiction.

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