By Michael Mariotte

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever--at least if you think "sunshine" should equal solar power.

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever–at least if you think “sunshine” should equal solar power.

When it comes to solar power, the Southeast U.S.–despite its abundant sunshine–has long been like the kid at the back of the class who refuses to raise her hand: a complete non-participant in the action.

That is now changing, rapidly.

The Southeast traditionally has lagged behind most of the U.S. in solar power, but that is beginning to change.

Take North Carolina. From 2010 to 2013, solar capacity skyrocketed from 40 MW to 469 MW, and the growth continues. Solar potential in the state is enormous: a new report says the state could produce 30 times as much electricity as it currently uses with solar power.

And take a look at Georgia. It is now the fastest growing solar state in the country. Regulators there are requiring 525 MW of solar in the state by next year, and Georgia is going to meet that target easily–even without a state Renewable Energy Standard (RES). If the state had such a standard, Georgia’s solar growth could become far greater–especially because virtually all of that 525 MW will be utility-scale–rather than distributed solar.

And how about backward South Carolina? Solar currently is virtually non-existent in the state, despite the fact that one of the state’s major industries is tourism to its sunny beaches at Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and elsewhere. But a new state law–while not nearly adequate–and ratepayer anger over seven (so far) rate increases associated with the construction of the Summer nuclear reactors–are poised to finally set off solar deployment in the state in a big way.

Some Floridians are not happy with current law prohibiting them from owning their own rooftop solar installations.

Some Floridians are not happy with current law prohibiting them from owning their own rooftop solar installations.

The big holdout is Florida–”The Sunshine State.” And that it remains the big holdout is a near-criminal abdication of responsibility among the entire state government. In Florida, it is simply illegal for people to install their own rooftop solar; the law requires utilities to own all solar power in the state. There was considerable hope that the election of Charlie Crist as Governor in November would change that dynamic. But Crist lost.

Still, consumer outrage over the early cost recovery laws that have led to ratepayers forfeiting millions of dollars for a nuclear project that will never be built at Levy County–and another that likely will never be built at Turkey Point–has reached the legislature and there is a reasonable chance for repeal this year. And sooner or later, even Florida politicians will have to recognize that if the “Sunshine State” tag is to carry any validity in the 21st century, they will have to take the shackles off the solar power industry. Although some more pushing from Floridians (and a lot of activists already have been pushing hard) couldn’t hurt…

Meanwhile, whether you’re in the Southeast or not, this handy little Mythbuster will help you fight back against those who say we can’t power the world with renewables. Don’t believe them; we can, we will.

Michael Mariotte

November 24, 2014


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Filed under: Renewables Tagged: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, renewables, solar power, South Carolina

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