Florida

Floridians Overwhelmingly Support Solar In Primary Vote

A ballot measure approved Tuesday improves the economics of solar in the Sunshine State.

View the original article here.

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Solar advocates finally got a win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, as voters approved a measure to get rid of property taxes on solar equipment.

With more than 1,970,000 Floridians checking ‘yes,’ the measure, known as Amendment 4, received more support than the state’s two U.S. Senate primary winners, Marco Rubio (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), combined.

It’s not surprising that the measure passed, although the overwhelming support was a morale boost for the industry, which has faced hurdles in Florida. Amendment 4 received 72 percent approval overall — and needed only 60 percent to pass.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses” — Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R)

The amendment was the culmination of a bipartisan effort from the state legislature to make solar more affordable, especially for big box stores and for solar companies that offer leased equipment. While homeowners themselves were already exempt from paying property tax on solar equipment that they owned, businesses were on the hook.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses,” State Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R) said in a statement. “Floridians will benefit from lower taxes, reduced energy costs and the increased security of a diversified energy portfolio.”

Rodrigues cosponsored the bill putting the amendment on the ballot, along with fellow state representatives Lori Berman (D) and Dwight Dudley (D). The amendment had broad support from solar industry groups, environmental groups, and traditional business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Florida Retail Federation. The amendment will now go back to the legislature to be enacted into law.

“With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved.” — Ragan Dickens, Walmart

Supporters are hoping the tax break will spur companies such as Walmart, IKEA, and Costco, which have made massive investments in solar elsewhere in the country, to install solar panels on their Florida stores. It will also allow solar leasing companies such as SolarCity to improve their margins.

“While we don’t have any onsite solar installations at our stores in Florida right now, we’re always looking at opportunities to add solar at stores across the country where it makes economic sense,” said Ragan Dickens, director of sustainability communications for Walmart. “With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved, and we’ll certainly evaluate our opportunities there.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, Florida has the third-most potential for solar in the country, but it is only 14th in amount of installed solar — even while installing 90 percent more solar in the past year. Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina all have more installed solar.

“It’s clear Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction,” SEIA vice president Sean Gallagher said in a statement. “Now it’s time to keep the momentum going. To ensure a bright solar future for Florida, customers should vote NO on Amendment 1, the anti-solar amendment that will be on Florida ballots this November.”

Amendment 1 was certainly the dark cloud on the horizon during the Tuesday’s Amendment 4 party.

If Amendment 1 passes, it will prohibit Floridians from selling their electricity to third parties. In effect, it would do away with Floridians’ rights to lease solar panels, since, in that situation, the owner of the panels generally sells the electricity to the homeowner. Leasing solar systems has been an effective and popular way to allow homeowners to go solar without paying for the system up front.

Opponents have argued that the measure is designed to limit rooftop solar in Florida, and, as written, is intentionally confusing to voters, who might not understand what they are voting for.

“[Tuesday’s vote] is a big step forward for Florida, removing a longtime barrier to solar adoption, and the wide margin shows voters want rooftop solar,” said Will Craven, a spokesman for SolarCity. “But Amendment 1 in November could be three steps back, as it aims to trick these voters into supporting something that sounds pro solar, but would actually put a thriving solar industry further out of reach. Only monopoly utilities will benefit from a Yes on 1 vote, everyone else will lose.”

The state Supreme Court ruled against that argument in March and allowed the measure to go to voters during the general election.

Amendment 1 will also face a 60 percent threshold for approval, but there is expected to be a significant media campaign encouraging people to vote yes on 1.

Vote YES on Amendment 4 in August to Lower the Cost of Energy for Floridians

Solar Power: the Sunshine State Needs Your Help

JulieBy Julie Lundin, LEED-AP, Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Vote Yes Amendment 4In April 2015, I wrote an article for our newsletter entitled “How you can help make Florida the Sunshine State again.” At the time, Floridians for Solar Choice, a coalition of solar advocates was seeking signatures on a ballot petition to expand solar power in the State of Florida. I volunteered and participated in obtaining these important signatures. The petition’s focus was to increase solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and choose who provides it to them.

To get the initiative on the ballot, Florida required the coalition to first collect over 68,000 signatures of registered voters, and then have the initiative language approved by the state Supreme Court. This amendment failed to get on the November 2016 ballot due to being stymied when the utilities conducted a price war over petition gathering and they ended up in federal court suing their petition gathering vendor over billing practices. This proposal is now intended for the 2018 ballot. If passed, it will allow property owners to sign lease agreements with solar companies to finance and install equipment, a financing vehicle available in most states. Solar owners would then be allowed to generate and sell solar electricity to contiguous property owners as well as to area utilities.

Currently, there are two solar power amendments that will be part of our Florida elections this fall. Even as a person involved in sustainable building and design as well as a solar power supporter, I was unclear about the content and ramifications of Amendment 4 and Amendment 1. My hope is that this article will help clarify the amendments and lead to informed voter choices.

Amendment 4 will be on the August 30th Florida 2016 Primary Election Ballot. It is officially titled “Solar Devices or Renewable Energy Source Devices; Exemption from Certain Taxation and Assessment.” Explanation: If you were to install solar panels on your property, the value would be exempt from both the tangible personal property tax and the real property tax.

  • It also creates a new exemption for businesses, appraisers would exempt the renewable- energy from the ad-valorem tax levied on the tangible personal property of a business. Amendment 4 was put on the ballot by the Legislature, with unanimous votes in both the Florida Houseof Representatives and the Senate.

Amendment 1 also known as “The Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative” will be on the November 8, 2016 Election Ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment. According to BallotPedia, for a constitutional amendment to be enacted in Florida, it must win a supermajority vote of 60 percent of those voting on the questions. Amendment 1 was created by an organization with a grassroots sounding name, Consumers for Smart Solar. In reality the organization is financed by the state’s major electric utility companies. This measure qualified for the ballot in late January after getting nearly 700,000 signatures from Floridians. The competing measure that I referenced above, Floridians for Solar Choice, a group backed by the solar industry, did not get enough signatures and was derailed by the petition gathering price war. For in depth information on Amendment 1, read the following article titled “Are Big Power Companies Pulling a Fast One on Florida Voters?”

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/florida-solar-amendment-utility-companies-electricity 

Solar Panel Installation
The following is an editorial by the Miami Herald Editorial Board printed on August 9, 2016. This editorial will help to understand the history and issues of solar power in the State of Florida and perhaps provide clarity for your vote.

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article94707982.html

Amendment 4: Vote Yes on this beneficial solar proposal on Aug. 30

This is the Sunshine State. However, the use of solar energy — dependent on sunlight, which we have in abundance, and not on nuclear or fossil fuel — is still sporadic and contentiously debated.

Cost and who profits almost always play central roles. But unlike the controversial solar consumer-rights amendment on November’s ballot, in the primary on Aug. 30, Florida’s voters can approve an almost universally supported constitutional amendment that will reduce the cost of installing solar panels — more incentivizing, less punitive.

The biggest barrier to solar panels is the upfront cost. Even though the cost of solar-panel installation has been dropping, it still is an expensive endeavor for many property owners. Amendment 4 would provide a tax exemption that makes it less costly to go solar.

It would extend a tax break for residential property owners who have installed solar or equipment for other renewable energy since Jan. 1, 2013.

In addition, the amendment would establish a new exemption for businesses. Right now, if a business installs solar panels, it gets hit with a “tangible tax,” an assessment for equipment, fixtures and furniture that an enterprise or rental property uses. But as the ballot language says, the constitutional amendment would authorize the state Legislature to “exempt from ad valorem taxation the assessed value of solar or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax, and … prohibit consideration of such devices in assessing the value of real property for ad valorem taxation purposes.”

This measure will allow Florida to get closer to realizing the full potential of solar energy. Consumers can trim energy costs; encourage energy independence and tamp down on fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Floridians use 40 percent more electricity than the national average. No surprise there, with air conditioners running almost year-round. So, yes, we can do much better.

Unlike other constitutional amendments, placed on the ballot through petition drives because state lawmakers preferred to punt rather than take legislative action, Amendment 4 reached the ballot via a unanimous vote in the Legislature.

The state cannot abate local taxes without going through the Florida Constitution. Lawmakers, this time, were following mandated process. And Amendment 4’s backers are a wide-ranging bunch, including, according to the League of Women Voters of Florida — itself a supporter — The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Tea Party; The Sierra Club and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment 4 not only would expand the use of clean energy, beneficial for Florida’s singular environment, it would add to the 6,500 solar jobs currently in the state and strengthen the economy while lowering solar consumers’ energy costs.

The Miami Herald recommends YES on Amendment 4.

Below are links to organizations that have information on Amendment 4 and Amendment 1 so that you can be an informed voter.

http://www.yeson4.org/

Support-solar http://www.flsolarchoice.org/

  1. Spread the word on Amendment 4; Urge people to vote YES on August 30th! As a result of our collective efforts, lawmakers and other coalition partners helped place a solar tax abatement amendment on Florida’s 2016 Primary Election ballot.  This initiative would remove a barrier to solar by exempting the panels and other renewable energy equipment from property taxes for 20 years. If passed in August, this policy will lower the cost of solar, increase clean energy jobs, and greatly expand solar development across the state! Vote YES on August 30th!
  2. Say NO to the utility-backed ‘solar’ petition this fall: Amendment 1 is an effort by big monopoly utilities to choke-off rooftop solar and keep a stranglehold on customers by preventing them from generating their own power. In March, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled 4-3 to allow the utility-backed petition on to the November ballot.  The utilities may have more money, but they are on the wrong side of this issue. We need you to fight alongside us and urge your friends, family and neighbor: VoteNO in NOvember!

https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Solar_Energy_Subsidies_and_Personal_Solar_Use,_Amendment_1_(2016)

How you can help make Florida the Sunshine State again

Julie

By Julie Lundin, LEED-AP ID+C,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation 

 

 

Florida is undeniably sunny. “The Sunshine State” was adopted as the State Nickname in 1970. It is used on FL_Sunshinemotor vehicle licenses, welcome signs and marketing campaigns. While Florida promotes itself as the Sunshine State we are not utilizing our most abundant and natural resource, solar power.

What is solar power? It is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available. The U.S., including Florida, provides some of the richest solar resources in the world. Only two other states, California and Texas, have more rooftop solar power potential than Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Based on Florida’s size, rebounding economy and growing population our state should be a leader in the generation and promotion of solar energy.

So why isn’t Florida a solar energy leader?

The reason is simple: Florida’s large utility monopolies and lawmakers have worked successfully to block and control who can generate solar energy and what it can be used for; thereby restricting its use by homeowners and businesses. Florida utility monopolies exist today due to a law that was created over 100 years ago which was trying to avoid a tangle of power lines strung up by competing companies.  This same law restricts solar companies from installing solar panels on roofs and selling back electricity. It is considered a third party sale and is illegal in Florida.

  • Florida is now only one of four states in the nation that prohibit citizens from buying electricity from companies that will put solar panels on a building.

Due to the influence and power of Florida’s utility monopolies, there is a large effort to discourage renewable energy in the state. The large utilities are afraid of losing their monopoly and the lucrative profits that the government guarantees them. Recently lawmakers, at the direction of the utility companies, gutted the State’s energy savings goals and entirely eliminated Florida’s solar-rebate program.

Floridians should have access to solar power and free market choices. We should be allowed to contract directly with solar providers to power our homes and businesses with solar energy. We are currently being denied the right to choose solar as a power source. The free market and competition benefits all of us. Solar energy makes financial sense. That is why business leaders in America’s brightest, most competitive companies are increasingly choosing to install solar energy systems at their facilities. The price of solar energy has fallen dramatically over the past few years while the price of fossil fuel generation continues to experience volatility. America’s businesses are turning to solar power because it’s good for their bottom line.

  • According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, Walmart is the top corporate user in the United States with 105 MW installed at 254 locations.
  • The average price of an installed commercial PV (photovoltaic) project in 2Q2014 was 14% less than the cost in 2013 and was over 45% less than it cost to complete in 2012.

Electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases.

  • The Solar Means Business report noted that the top 25 companies for solar capacity had more than 569 MW of solar PV at 1,110 different facilities in a survey conducted last August. These results represent a 28% increase over the prior year and a 103% increase over 2012.

Clearly, solar power is a great untapped resource for the Sunshine State – one that can benefit residents as well as businesses. It is time to enable Floridians to have unfettered access to this inexpensive energy source – and you can help in the process:

The Florida resident-led solar group, Floridians for Solar Choice, is seeking to make solar more accessible in the state. They are seeking your signature on a ballot petition.

  • The petition seeks to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and chose who provides it to them.

Floridians for Solar Choice have reached 72,000 signatures on their petition which clears the way for it to be reviewed by Florida’s Supreme Court.

  • The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the petitions language legally qualifies it to be a ballot initiative for Floridians in 2016.

Getting its petition on the 2016 ballot is the main goal for Floridians for Solar Choice. They need over 600,000 more signatures to have this critical citizen initiative to be put on the ballot for next year.

Please visit their website to learn about the solar initiative to remove this legal barrier to making Florida the Sunshine State again, and, more importantly, to sign the petition, go to: www.FLsolarchoice.org.

LEED Project Update

4/19/15

Julie

 

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing

Existing

Proposed

Proposed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed LEED Certified Building

For general information on this project please Click Here to see our last post.

We have been busy working on the design and drawings in preparation for submission to the City of Boca Raton Development Services Department. The design of the building has taken many twists and turns over the last few months. Since we are doing a major renovation and constructing a second floor, the design and location of the stairs and an elevator have been instrumental in our building’s design. As with any project, the site plan and its setbacks limit the building footprint that will be utilized.

Based on our site plan, we do have the space to bump the front of the building out to accommodate our new staircase. This allows us to construct the stairs without having to penetrate the existing building ceiling membrane. In addition, it creates an interesting design element that does not deduct precious square footage for the stairs construction.

We have also decided to locate the elevator on the outside of the building. Again, an exterior location will not deduct square footage from the base building plan. Since the elevator shaft will be located on the exterior, building fire codes will be different than if the elevator was located internally. We are anticipating that the elevator will be a prominent design feature and contribute to the aesthetics of our project.

As stated in our previous post, this project is a proposed LEED certified building. A key component of a LEED project is its reduced energy use. Our initial design utilized solar rooftop panels to generate power for the building even with the hopes of generating enough power to sell back to the grid. Florida’s large utility monopolies and lawmakers have worked successfully to block and control who can generate solar energy and what it can be used for; thereby restricting its use by homeowners and businesses. The Florida legislature, at the direction of the utility companies, have gutted the state’s energy savings goals and entirely eliminated Florida’s solar-rebate program. Due to this situation, we are now exploring alternative methods of energy including fuel cell technology powered by natural gas.

There is a pro-solar group in Florida, Floridians for Solar Choice, that is seeking to make solar more accessible in the state. Their ballot petition seeks to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and chose who provides it to them. Please visit their website to learn about this initiative and sign the petition. www.FLsolarchoice.org.

Ugly Duckling to Become LEED Certified Building

2/4/2015

Julie

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing-Building

Existing Building

Proposed-Building-11-x-17-Perspective-

Proposed LEED Certified Building

We are in the process of renovating a 1,950 square foot warehouse located in Boca Raton, FL.  The building was previously used for a towing company so the property is currently a brownfield which will require that we remediate the contamination. This building is a major renovation/new construction project. We will be demolishing the existing interior space and adding a second floor and green terrace.  Our building renovations will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification.  Here are just a few of our intended design elements:

  • A tank used for rainfall and condensate collection to flush toilets and irrigate native Florida landscaping
  • A green terrace
  • A metal reflective roof
  • Use of low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives for building improvements
  • Occupancy sensors and photos sensors that monitor daylight and reduce energy needs
  • LED or CFL Lighting
  • Pervious Paver Parking Areas
  • Low Flow Toilets and Faucets
  • Daylight Harvesting to lower Lighting Costs
  • Impact Windows

LEED Certification provides third-party validation that our building was designed and built to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, resource conservation and indoor environmental quality.

We look forward to showcasing the progress of our much anticipated sustainable renovations.