Environmentalists and conservatives want consumers in Florida to have a more direct line to solar power. Floridians for Solar Choice is plugging a constitutional amendment that is expected to generate heavy opposition from utilities.
Amendment supporters are unlikely political bedfellows. They include green groups like the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy as well as the Tea Party, the Christian Coalition and the Libertarian party.
Their proposal lets entrepreneurs bypass big utilities and sell solar power directly to consumers. Nothing speaks more directly to free-market sensibilities, says Tea Party activist and amendment organizer Debbie Dooley.
“We need a strong conservative voice in the energy field,” said Dooley.
Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, expects heavy static from the power monopolies. Collecting the nearly 700,000 signatures needed to make the ballot, counter heavy opposition and defend the measure in court will cost 10 million dollars, he says.
“We are up against some very strong and very financially powerful entities,” said Smith.
Utilities argue solar power is too expensive to be viable and too dependent on the weather to be reliable. Duke Energy declined comment.
The amendment limits the size of solar facilities to 2 megawatts, but that’s hardly tiny. Two megawatts is enough power about 400 homes, amendment organizers say. That's twice
the size of a rooftop facility at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando that is heralded as the largest in the Southeast.