Solar Power Initiative Advances A Few Degrees

May 12, 2015

Jump starting even a small solar power industry in the Sunshine State is a lot harder than it sounds. But as Jim Ash reports, backers of a constitutional amendment are celebrating this week after clearing an initial hurdle.

Backers of a solar power initiative see more than a ray of hope.

Floridians for Solar Choice needs 683 thousand, 104 signatures by February to reach the 2016 November ballot. Its reached the number needed for initial Supreme Court review in less than four months, says board member Stephen Smith.

“We have over 86,000 petitions that have been valid, we’ve collected well over 120,000. Not all have been turned in.”

The amendment allows solar plants to generate up to 2 megawatts without being considered a utility. That’s only enough to keep the lights on most of the time at a large Wal-Mart.

It’s enough to encourage small operators, but not all of them will be mom and pops. Smith admits Solar Choice is talking to billionaire Elon Musk’s Solar City company, a major supplier of rooftop systems.

“They want to give customers a choice and they’re prepared to challenge the incumbent monopoly utilities, and that’s Solar City’s business model as it is other companies.”

Musk hasn’t contributed to the $8 million to $10 million Solar Choice thinks it will need to fend off opposition from utilities. So far, backers have raised nearly $184,000 and spent $154,000.