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Solar Southwest Florida

Solar Energy and Solar Panel Information for Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, and Port Charlotte Areas

How FPL Can Improve The Solar Rebate Program

Posted by Jason Szumlanski On March 15, 2012

Cut the FPL Rebate Amount How FPL Can Improve The Solar Rebate ProgramFor those of you who don’t know, the largest utility in Southwest Florida, FPL, is giving away money – lots of money! If you ever had an interest in solar panels, NOW is the time to act. There is money available for solar electric systems and solar water heating systems, and combined with record low prices on solar panels, this is an amazing opportunity. The program is a huge success, but I want to talk about how FPL can improve the Solar Rebate Program, especially the rebate for solar electric panels.

FPL is offering $2 per watt of installed system rating with a residential limit of $20,000 (for a 10 kilowatt system). Smaller systems qualify for the same $2 per watt rebate amount. Most homeowners install around 5kW and receive a $10,000 rebate. How can this be improved? REDUCE the rebate amount!

What?! Huh?! No – don’t say that!!! You’re in the solar business!

Stay with me here as I explain. The first round of rebate funding ran out in under 15 minutes. That’s how much demand there was. That’s how unbelievable this deal is. That’s great, but there are some serious downsides to the program as it stands:

  • Only 310 lucky people received a rebate reservation in the first round of funding.
  • The first-come first-served system isn’t really fair – it benefits mainly people who can type their application fast on the FPL website. With this level of demand, a lottery would be a more fair distribution of funds. (Note: a lottery could have negative consequences for solar dealers who would not be able to predict future business.)
  • Solar contractors must race to get all of their sold systems installed in a 90 day window to have the rebate paid, then there is almost no work for the next 9 months. Who is going to buy solar without a rebate if they know one is right around the corner. This makes it very difficult for qualified solar installers to stay in business and employee people year-round.

If the rebate program can “sell out” in under 15 minutes to 310 customers, how long would it take to sell out at $1 per watt? 50 cents? 25 cents? How many more people would install systems?

If FPL’s goal is truly to get more installed solar capacity in Florida, they would get the best bang for their buck by reducing the rebate amount to maximize the amount of solar electricity installed! Under the current scenario, FPL actually reduces the amount of solar energy installed in Florida, and essentially controls the market. They can predict quite well how much solar will be installed in a given year, and maybe that is their intention. The math is quite simple – if they devote half of the $15.5M annual program budget to photovoltaics, somewhere around 3.75 megawatts per year would be installed and interconnected to the utility.

Imagine the impact if the rebate amount were reduced. I’m willing to bet that if the rebate amount were cut to 50 cents per watt, 1/4 of the current amount, that four times the number of systems would be installed, especially if the installation window were increased to 9-12 months. This would help bring much more solar power to the utility’s system, and would keep solar dealers humming along installing systems year-round, employing more people and creating a greener future for everyone in Florida.

What is FPL’s motivation? What constraints exist from the Public Service Commission approved program? I don’t know all of the answers, but I’d sure like to hear from FPL about my proposal!

 

5 Responses

  1. Jason Szumlanski Says:

    Just to give you some stats, Florida’s Solar Electric installations dropped from 35 megawatts in 2010 to 17 megawatts in 2011. That dropped our rank among states from #8 to #17 – embarrassing!

    The price of PV panels dropped dramatically and the rebate came into effect. The only explanation for the drop is that the FPL rebate program limits the amount of PV installed. This is contrary to the stated goal of encouraging private solar electric system installations.

    All that being said, it is STILL cheaper to install solar today WITHOUT the FPL rebate than it was a few years ago WITH state rebates!

    Posted on March 15th, 2012 at 8:03 am

  2. Dan Arguelles Says:

    Jason,

    The best way to take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit and the FP&L rebate is to invest in a total solar roof integrated system. This way you can use your 30% federal tax credit to pay for a new roof as well as the solar energy system.

    It does not make sense to install solar energy systems that damage the existing roofing. Many of these roofs would benefit from a new roof retro-fit to increase wind uplift performance, energy efficiency and aesthetics. Sustainability is key.

    Posted on March 16th, 2012 at 12:03 am

  3. Florida Solar Ranking Drops to #17 Among States | Solar Southwest Florida Says:

    [...] the big decrease? It’s my contention that the FPL rebate program is stifling the market. That’s right – a rebate intended to encourage solar energy installation had the [...]

    Posted on March 16th, 2012 at 6:11 am

  4. Jason Szumlanski Says:

    Dan,

    You may be interested in some comments I made recently on Building Integrated PV (BIPV) at:
    http://www.solarsouthwestflorida.com/building-integrated-photovoltaics-bipv-in-southwest-florida/

    The tax credit is a nice feature of BIPV that I failed to address. However, unless you actually need a new roof or have a new construction situation, there is no reason to replace a perfectly good roof with BIPV. It’s still not cost competitive when looking at the comparative energy produced, even with the tax benefits.

    Implying that traditional solar rack systems damage existing roofs is patently wrong and misleading.

    BIPV does have its place, but the retrofit solar panel market is far larger and more developed.

    Posted on March 16th, 2012 at 10:49 am

  5. Florida 14th in Solar Electric Installations in Q1, 2012 | Solar Southwest Florida Says:

    [...] industry’s malaise. However, the immediate problem is the disruptive FPL rebate program that effectively limits the number of solar electric installations in FPL’s service area. Customers are reluctant to pay full price for a solar electric [...]

    Posted on July 12th, 2012 at 7:52 am

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