Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Power Companies Are Sabotaging Solar Power in the Sunniest States

If you’re dreaming of a day when your household is self-sufficient, running off solar panels attached joyfully to your roof, then think again.

Some of the sunniest states in the United States have rules set up that make solar panels virtually impossible to have. For example, St. Petersburg, Florida, which holds a world record for 768 days straight of sunny weather, is one of the states where solar panels are extremely rare.

The laws surrounding solar panels vary from state to state, but opposition from utility companies nervous about the encroachment of solar firms means many aren’t in favor of turning to the green power source.

Unfortunately, money is the biggest issue holding us back from a greener nation.
Solar panels in California (Photo:
Areas where solar panels thrive are surprisingly less sunny places, like New England. The solar panel business models used in Massachusetts and New York are actually illegal in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and other southern states.

In order to use solar panels, a homeowner typically signs a lease agreement with an installation company and pays the cost of the panels over time. They then sell any excess power the system generates. Tax breaks and government incentives make having solar panels incredibly affordable.

However, in several southern states, low electricity rates — thanks to extensive use of coal — have energy companies weary of letting solar firms share the business. They’ve discouraged homeowners from having solar panels, and in some instances have even enacted bans.
Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia installed solar panels, but Dominion Virginia Power, the local utility, threatened legal action. Dominion claimed that only they could sell electricity in the area, so the university and the solar firm it worked with were forced to change their lease arrangement and forfeit valuable tax credits.

Another instance was in South Carolina, when objections from a utility company forced around 80 contracts to be cancelled with a solar firm that was planning on supplying free panels to churches and school districts.

It seems bizarre that states as sunny as South Carolina and Florida — you know, “the sunshine state” — would be left green-free. A spokesman for SolarCity, a solar panel provider, described Florida as a “sleeping giant” in the solar industry.

There is lots of potential in this country, but it requires innovation and a willingness to change. Solar panels can seem like they come with a cost, but everyone wins with renewable energy.

The U.S. should take note from countries like Germany who are taking advantage of solar power, at one point garnering half of its electricity from the sun.

The future can be very green if we allow it to be.


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