Scientists have long declared that there is enough sunlight striking our planet every day to fulfill the global power needs for a year. And what better place to put that theory into practice than The Sunshine State.
Of all 50 states, Florida ranks 3rd for solar potential, with solar being the most abundant energy resource for the state. It is estimated that the 2,900 GW of power potential would be enough to power Florida and the United States’s energy consumption.
However, at the moment, it is ranked 14th in terms of rooftop solar installed with 780,600 Florida homes powered by solar and only 3.03% of power consumption coming from solar power. That said, the growth projection for the next five years has 12,042 MW added to the residential and business sectors.
Types of Solar Set-Ups
Solar photovoltaic (PV) power can be harnessed in a variety of ways. The most common applications are panels on residential homes or businesses and solar farms. The differences between them being whether they are facilitating power to a single building or the community at large.
Within these two categories, there are three further ways to categorize the flow of power: on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid. Most residential solar power is on-grid. The power from the sunlight goes directly to the home, with the surplus flowing out onto the grid. This offers the fastest rate of return for investments. However, in power shortages, the grid still shuts down.
Off-grid solar systems are more common in rural areas. These systems supply continuous electricity, regardless of the state of the grid. However, the power storage is limited by the size of the battery. Furthermore, an individual needs to invest in further appliances like charge controllers, enclosures, and critical load circuit subpanels to protect their assets and prevent disaster and malfunction.
Hybrid systems combine these two systems. Most off-grid systems have a hybrid option. These options are typically cheaper than being fully off-grid.
Florida Public Service Commission
The Florida Public Service Commission is the governing body that is responsible for regulating electricity and public utilities within the state. They ensure that all solar installation is safe and regulated, and provides public utilities at a reasonable rate.
Within Florida, it has been reported that the commission was difficult to work with several years ago, but the solar sector has continued to grow in the past few years.
Solar Incentives in Florida
Aside from the abundant sunshine, there are many reasons to pursue solar power in Florida. Residential and business models have a good consumer value and return on investment, not to mention the benefit to society by using solar power. Installation prices have fallen 45% in the past 5 years, and the state invests $8.8 billion in the industry.
Florida uses net metering for its solar systems. This practice allows residential solar owners to sell unused solar generated from your home to the grid. While out and about, on vacation, or at work, your home doesn’t use as much power, so you sell the surplus to the grid and power other homes. The metering rolls over each month, and then, at the end of the year, there is a payout. This scheme is open to all consumers generating up to 2MW of power.
The top two metering services in Florida are Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light (FPL). FPL has several power plants and solar farms and uses both solar thermal and photovoltaic, which is common in homes and businesses. Neither service uses concentrated solar because there is little potential for it in Florida.
Property Tax Exemption
Florida’s Property Tax Exclusion for Residential Renewable Energy Property ensures that any renovations will not render additional costs in annual property taxes for homes, and an 80% abatement for businesses.
It should be noted that there are exemptions that apply to certain types of equipment that are typically associated with an off-grid setup. These include solar energy collectors, inverters, storage systems, and some of the cabling that would be necessary to create an off-grid or hybrid system.
Sales Tax Exemption
Under the Solar and CHP Sales Tax Exemption, sales tax is omitted on new solar energy systems. This is a 6% savings for Florida.
The Federal Solar Tax Credit
The Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC) can reduce the cost of a photovoltaic solar system by 22% through the end of 2021. There is no maximum cap on the credit, but it does only apply to consumers who purchase the system outright (via cash or loan) and earn enough income for the credit to be substantial. Furthermore, it only applies to principal or second residences, not any rented property.
Finding an Installer That’s Right For You
If interested in the growing solar market in Florida, it is necessary to first get informed. This involves creating a budget, learning the terms of the trade, and shopping around.
The average cost of solar panels in Florida is $2.61 per watt. Thus, a typical 6 kW system is $11,593 (after claiming the ITC available). It is important to note that this is lower than the US average cost, which is $2.85 per watt.
Installing a solar system does not simply involve purchasing panels: there are many other components like permits and inspections, installation fees, system checks, and the inverter. Ultimately, there is wiggle room within these averages—it just depends on the amount of power consumption for the residence, and the type of equipment purchased.
To understand what a contractor discusses in his quote, it is important to understand how solar photovoltaic power works at each step of the way. Diagrams like the one above are helpful, as is understanding some of the following terms.
- Kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the unit of measurement for a household or business.
- Watts (W) is the measurement of energy produced.
- Panels are the physical devices that absorb solar energy and convert it to DC power.
- Charge controller moderates the amount of power flowing to the battery, so that they don’t overcharge.
- Inverters take DC power and convert it to AC power, which is the type of electricity used in buildings in the United States
- Power meters provide an objective measurement of the output to track consumer power usage and surplus for net metering.
- Wires and Cables securely connect the solar panels, to all the varying devices, and the home fuse box.
- Disconnects stop the power from reaching a device, much like a circuit breaker.
With any major purchase, it is advised to shop around. Get quotes from a few different installers in the area, and weigh the benefits and risks of each. A savvy consumer can even use quotes from one to negotiate with the other.
At the end of the day though, it is paramount to work with someone trustworthy. As with anything involving electricity, having a reliable contractor or installation service is crucial. There is a lot of power going through these cables and it needs to be done right.
Best Solar Companies in Florida: Top Picks
There are 414 solar companies (66 manufacturers, 209 installers and developers) in Florida. There is certainly a lot out there and a 5-star company for everyone!
Unicity Solar Energy — Tarpon Springs, FL Review
With over 30 years of direct PV experience, Unicity Solar installs high-quality solar electric systems with industry-leading 25-year warranties on the system components, workmanship, and materials. They offer a 25-year production guarantee along with a roof penetration guarantee which guarantees a leak-free roof.
Unicity Solar has both in-house processes and installation, which allows them to work quickly, perform with high quality, and complete every step of the process with one team. All of their installers are certified, master electricians. They are partnered with UNIRAC, Panasonic Solar, and EverVolt.
Gulf Electrical—Davenport, FL Review
Establish in 1996, the solar wing of Gulf Electrical is one of Florida’s largest solar installation contractors. They install for most of the leading solar companies in the state. They provide custom quotes and consumers are offered wholesale rates. They are a certified LEED – Green Associate.
SunCool Energy Company—Boca Raton, FL Review
For 12 years, SunCool Energy Company, a certified solar and electrical contractor has provided full service—from design to final utility connection—to South Florida home and business owners. They know the area well and are up to date on local building codes and requirements, which eliminates unnecessary delays. They offer no-cost estimates and financing for their services. They are partnered with Panasonic Solar and Enphase, and they are BBB and SEIA certified.
Freedom Solar Energy—Zephryhills, FL Review
Freedom Solar has installed over 4000 systems across Florida over the past 12 years. This locally-owned, small business does everything from ground mounts to metal shingle roofs. They offer premium products to consumers who care about the environment and offer additional services like energy auditing, roofing, solar repair and maintenance, and community solar. They partner with Enphase and Sunpower. They are also BBB certified.
Revolution Contractors Roofing and Solar—statewide
Revolution Contractors Roofing and Solar is a family business, owned by 2 best friends who have worked in the roofing and solar contracting industry since 2002. It is one of the only companies to hold both a roofing and solar license in-house. They work with high-quality materials and pride themselves on designing the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing solar designs possible. They are partners with LG Solar and are BBB certified.
May Electric Solar—Hudson, FL Review
May Electric Solar is a locally owned and operated company geared toward home and buyer experience. They work with consumers to help save money on initial investment and personalized long-term energy expenditures by identifying options that make sense for each situation. The installations are reliable and prompt—they have a showroom and warehouse with 3-6 months of product stocked, to limit delays. They partner with LG and Enphase and are certified by the American Solar Energy Society, BBB, and SEIA.
Homes.Solar was founded with one goal in mind—to help Florida homeowners save money, improve their homes, and go green. The headquarters are located in Brandon, but they service most of Florida. They pride themselves on making the transition to solar hassle-free and affordable, offering multiple finance options depending on credit. They are partnered with Generac PWR.
PayOli Solar—statewide Review
PayOli Solar is a privately held Solar Energy company founded by ex-corporate engineering executives committed to turning homes and businesses into sustainable powerhouses. All of their proposals are designed to match consumer energy consumption needs and lifestyle, as well as the customer’s budget. As engineers, their technology is up to date to provide the most efficient systems. Working with them will also come with a workmanship and manufacturer twenty-five-year warranty because caring about the environment doesn’t mean giving up comfort. They partner with LG Solar and Sungage Financial. They are certified by the American Solar Energy Society, Tesla Powerwall, and SEIA.
Goldin Solar—Orlando, FL Review
Goldin Solar’s mission is to provide the best solar experience for Floridians to save money while saving the planet. They’re confident that the new solar system will pay for itself in energy savings and increase property value. They partner with Panasonic Solar, LG Solar, REC Solar, Q Partner, SolarEdge Preferred Partner, and Sungage Financial. They are certified by SEIA and Tesla Powerwall.
Photon Brothers—Tampa, FL Review
The Photon Brothers company was founded in 2013 by brothers Matt and David Raichart, who are local contractors with a focus on quality materials and installation practices. Their electricians are licensed, bonded, and well-trained, and they do not use subcontractors. They pride themselves on their history of electrical contracting experience, thoughtful designs, craftsmanship installs, and critter guards. In addition to residential installation, they have a full-service department, commercial team, and finance department. They partner with REC Solar, LG Solar, and SolarEdge. They are also certified by BBB, COSEIA, North American Board of NABCEP Certified Energy Practitioners, SEIA, and Tesla Powerwall.