SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
How do we make solar energy a priority in the Sunshine State? It starts by boosting voter turnout in this year’s August and November elections among all Floridians who want to build a clean energy, sustainable energy future. The Florida August Primary Election is right around the corner and Amendment 4, a proposal to remove taxes on solar power, is on the ballot. To sign up to vote by mail, visit FloridaSolarVoter.com.
The proposed Amendment 4 would exempt solar systems from the tangible personal property tax – the most burdensome of the taxes – for a period of 20 years. SACE strongly supports this amendment as it would lower solar energy costs by lowering taxes on solar installations – because the tangible personal property tax is passed on to customers in the form of increased solar power prices of up to 5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Better solar economics can mean more solar development, which lays the groundwork for cleaner air and a more sustainable future for the next generation. To become law, Amendment 4 must be approved by a YES vote of at least 60 percent on the Aug. 30 primary ballot.
Voting is easy in Florida – you have many different options to make sure you cast your vote in August:
- Ditch the polls and sign up to vote by mail at floridasolarvoter.com! You will receive your ballot between July 26-August 2
- Or, consider voting early August 20-27.
- Enjoy voting on Election Day? Head to the polls August 30! Use this quick tool to mark your calendar.
For a week in May, the wind energy industry meandered its way through the sweltering streets of the Big Easy. The American Wind Energy Association hosted its annual WINDPOWER conference in New Orleans, and while the air was as thick as molasses outside, the work inside the conference was as refreshing as a gusty spring day.
In December, Congress passed a long-term phaseout of key federal tax credits for the wind energy and solar power industries. The level of policy certainty provided to the renewable energy industries is historic, and gives those industries several years of clarity. Right now, gigawatts of wind power are being snatched up all across the country, specifically to take advantage of extremely low costs. While the winds are blowing in the right direction, utilities need to trim their sails in order to best capture the winds of change. Starting next year, the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy will decline by 20%, so utilities need to move at a fast pace to contract for substantial quantities of wind energy by the end of this year.
In February, the United States Supreme Court effectively brought to a halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases from existing power plants, like coal and natural gas plants. The wind energy industry is tracking the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision for renewable energy purchases over the long term.
The south is rapidly becoming the next frontier for the wind energy industry. Southern utilities have announced about 1.5 gigawatts of renewable energy request for proposals. That amount of wind power could provide enough energy to run about 500,000 homes, annually. It is possible utilities could double or triple their renewable energy investments over the next year. But utilities are no longer the only purchaser of wind power. Major tech companies like Amazon, Google and Apple are purchasing large quantities of wind energy to reduce operating costs and reduce their environmental footprint. In fact, Amazon is purchasing the output of North Carolina’s first wind farm, a wind farm that is under construction right now.
After several years of on-again-off-again federal policy, the wind energy industry now has a bit of policy certainty. The next four or five years may see a doubling of the amount of wind power in this country, and that’s great news, especially for us in the south. Finally, clean energy has the wind at its back.
In January, Georgia Power Company, the state’s largest utility, filed a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Georgia Public Service Commission. The IRP is Georgia Power’s 20-year energy supply plan that must be approved by the Commission every three years. This long-term plan informs and guides the resources used to meet the energy needs of its customers.
As we covered in the February edition of WIRED In, the 2016 plan, proposed only a modest, new market-based renewables program called the Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI) — increasing their renewable energy portfolio by only 525 MW over the next three years, and made no substantial improvements to their energy efficiency efforts and programs.
Hearings on the plan were held in April, May and June, offering the public the opportunity to voice their opinions. Interested parties (interveners), including SACE, also had the opportunity to present expert testimony and question Georgia Power on the plan.
On renewables, SACE staff experts provided data showing evidence that Georgia Power could grow their renewable energy portfolio to 4000 MW without increasing rates. SACE also made numerous other recommendations and provided support for additional modifications to their energy efficiency proposals including a requirement that future IRPs treat energy efficiency as a priority resource.
Of particular concern in this IRP is Georgia Power’s new request to stick ratepayers with $175 million in order to pursue new nuclear power in the state. With the ever-escalating price tag of their current nuclear venture, Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, and the potential impacts to the Chattahoochee River of this new project idea, this proposal should be rejected.
Why Georgia Power has come out so weak on renewables yet so strong on nuclear without a need for new capacity leaves many scratching their heads. Georgia Power has directly touted the benefits that renewables offer to its customers. Fortunately, the Georgia Public Service Commission staff recommended several improvements to the IRP as well that are in line with our recommendations, but what will be supported and approved by the Commission remains uncertain.
Georgia Power’s IRP has far-reaching implications for Georgians. With the impacts of climate change at our doorstop and the Clean Power Plan finalized, we hope the Commission will continue their leadership and call for Georgia Power to get more serious about growing their renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio.
Memphis, Tennessee is commonly known as the “Home of the Blues” where musicians like W.C. Handy and B.B. King are still revered as legends and tourists flock to Beale Street to experience the magic of the music. More recently, however, the announcement of several new, significant renewable energy projects is helping to turn more of the city “green.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which provides wholesale power to the city, recently announced that it would be partnering with the U.S. Navy on a 400-acre solar site located at the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base, located just north of Memphis, in Millington. Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corporation will build the project, which will become our state’s largest solar array, almost 10 times larger than the state’s current largest array located in West TN on Interstate 40. Once constructed, the solar array will generate enough power to serve 7,500 homes! Not only will the project provide cheap, safe, clean energy to our region, it will also create around 300-400 temporary construction jobs – which means more green jobs in our city.
Not only is Memphis about to be home to the state’s largest solar array on the ground, it will also soon be home to our state’s largest rooftop solar project. The new IKEA store, currently under construction in Memphis, will begin installing 4,424 solar panels on the roof of the store this summer. These solar panels will provide almost all of IKEA’s power needs and will produce enough carbon emission free energy to offset emissions from 297 cars per year.
These projects are moving forward despite the fact that TVA has recently ramped down incentives for rooftop solar. What we are seeing in Memphis is that where there is a will, there is a way, and anyone who has spent anytime in the city knows that there is more than enough sunshine to go around, especially in the summer months. That is why past projects, like the redevelopment of the former Dixie Homes public housing site now known as Legends Park, have taken advantage of the city’s solar resources in order to offset energy costs. Legends Park has roof-top solar panels on 27 of its 30 townhouses and uses the energy generated from these panels to power electric gates, porch lights and irrigation and fire systems.
SACE continues to work with leaders in Memphis to highlight how the city can benefit from further solar projects and begin to incorporate these resources in ways that can benefit economically disadvantaged communities and help revitalize blighted areas. Through our advocacy, we will continue to work to make the “Home of the Blues” even greener than you think.