Florida’s Solar Industry Is Starting To Shine

About seven months ago, in November of 2018, I wrote a post on the fact that the solar power industry was about to take off in Florida. Well, here we are about half way through 2019 and that’s certainly the case.

This post comes by way of a PV Magazine article.

Of course, there’s no real surprise here. Large, utility-scale solar projects are announced many months in advance of ground being broken. And there was more than one large installation announced.

So how big has Florida’s solar expansion been so far in 2019?

One word. MASSIVE.

For the first quarter of 2019, Florida installed more solar power capacity than any other state in the country. Florida’s Q1 came in at 860 MW while California installed 838 MW. This is especially impressive as California is typically the largest installer of solar, quarter by quarter, year after year by wide margins.

Also, in all fairness to the state’s solar power industry, it first showed up on the solar map in a big way with about 400 MW in 2016. The difference now, of course, is that it is finally competing with California. Florida has plenty of land available for large scale solar installations, and being “The Sunshine State” helps too.

This trend will continue as Florida’s largest utility, Florida Power and Light, has announced a ten year goal of getting 30 million solar panels installed. This amounts to a capacity goal of 10 GW by 2030.

While this has mainly been utility-scale solar that has been mentioned so far, there’s now good indications that the residential market will start to finally pick up pace as well. Word is finally getting out how affordable solar is in Florida.

It should be mentioned, however, that a significant reason why the residential market stalled for many years was that the large solar leasing companies were not allowed to do business in the state. This, in turn, had many people thinking that going solar was simply not allowed at all. Unfortunately, many of those homeowners could have gone solar through other financing means.

There is a silver lining here. The new marketing efforts of these solar companies will help spread awareness of solar in general, and more savvy homeowners will choose to go solar. However, they will instead choose local companies as they will save thousands more with them.

More Than 10 GW Of Solar Installed In America In 2018

2018 was another strong year for the solar power industry in the United States.

Last year was the third year in a row that the country installed gigawatts of solar in double-digits. A total of 10.6 GW of solar PV (photovoltaics aka solar panels) were completed, bringing the total amount in the U.S. to 64.2 gigawatts. While this actually was a 2 percent decline from 2017, there are signs that the residential market is rebounding. Actually, over the next five years, we can expect a significant amount of new solar (details below).

The CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Harper, has stated – “The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds significant reason for optimism. The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth.”

Source: Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables

A few key facts and figures from SEIA’s report include;

  • Q4 2018 saw an additional 4.2 GW installed.
  • Solar was a top source of new electrical generation for 6 straight years.
  • A total of 6.2 GW of utility-scale solar was added in 2018. This was 58 percent of new energy capacity.
  • Over the next 5 years, total solar capacity will double.

Installations are expected to increase by 14 percent in 2019, with the industry maintaining at least 15 GW of installed solar capacity every year after.

The primary indicator that the residential market is back on track relates to the fact that the fourth quarter of 2018 was the strongest quarter over the past 2 years. More than 300,000 households installed solar panels in 2018. In addition to the solar powerhouse state of California, other states that did especially well last year included Nevada, Texas, and Florida.

As a total of new electrical capacity added in the U.S. in 2018, solar PV accounted for a significant 29 percent. This number is bound to increase quite a bit as more than 13 GW of utility-scale solar contracts were signed in 2018. This figure represents the largest amount of potential capacity in the solar pipeline. Renewable portfolio standards and increasing corporate interests help explain this upcoming boost to the solar industry.

In conclusion, the U.S. solar industry is looking strong after an upswing in installations to close out 2018. The market is adjusting to tariffs, experiencing a more diversified field of contractors, and continuing to take advantage of the low cost of solar power.

San Bernardino County Says No To Utility-Scale Solar

The largest county in the United States has just banned utility-scale solar. More specifically, San Bernardino County has said no to large scale solar developments that plan to sell a majority of its electric production elsewhere.

More than a million acres constitutes the amount of land that will be off-limits to solar contractors that do not comply with the new law.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has instead created guidelines for large solar installations. Called CORE (community-oriented renewable energy), this plan focuses on energy generation that is primarily used by local residents. The line is drawn right at the 50 percent mark. At least half of solar power generation must be utilized on site and not sold to the grid.

At the heart of this decision is the debate of whether rural residents quality of life is being diminished by having to deal with living nearby large solar panel installation sites. Conservationists and Native American tribes are among those that have successfully blocked large scale solar projects in the past.

In all fairness, who would be OK with living next to any type of power plant, even one that does not spew toxic fumes?

On the other hand, it is certainly easier to argue for more rooftop solar. The fact remains that a very high percentage of roofs and parking lots in this country still do not have solar installed on them. This would be a good starting point.

However, if we are truly to become a society that eventually relies on solar energy for the majority of the power that we need, we cannot ignore utility-scale solar. Common sense compromises can enable many large scale solar installations to still take place.

Solar Now Accounts For More Than 2 Percent Of U.S. Power

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power accounted for 2.4 percent of the nation’s electricity demand in 2018.

Combining both utility scale and non-utility scale, the total solar industry grew 25 percent in 2018.


California continues to be the solar power leader. The state increased its 2017 levels by 15 percent. It is now capable of supplying 14.1 percent of its electricity needs with solar power. Nevada was next with 12.4 percent, Hawaii at 11.8 percent, Arizona at 8.7 percent, and Utah at 7.6 percent.

While not making the top 5, there were quite a few states in New England that made noticeable gains in solar capacity. Also, quite a few states in the south experienced triple digit percentage increases in the past year or so. In fact, 12 states in total had at least 100 percent growth increases.

Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, there seems to be apparent resistance in states with stronger Renewable Portfolio Standard Policies. These are policies which basically say how much renewable energy a state must install by the end of a certain time period. Instead, states that are sunnier tend to be installing solar voluntarily at a quicker pace.

This can be seen as market forces being more powerful than political ones. It’s also a positive sign that the other states not going solar as quickly due to these mandates soon will regardless of said mandates. The bottom line is that the tipping point has been passed in which solar power is now too cheap to ignore.

Now it must be addressed that many will scoff at the idea of 2 percent being significant at all.

They would be missing the point.

The larger picture is that, while solar does only satisfy 2.4 percent of the nation’s electricity needs, the rate at which it is expanding is impressive and is what truly matters. In fact, solar power now delivers 100 times the amount of electricity it did 10 years ago. How about that for growth!

As utility-scale solar installations continue to take place, we will see solar accounting for a good percentage of total electricity demand in the not too distant future.