- The largest solar installer in the country is expanding into The Sunshine State, and credits voters for rejecting a ballot initiative that likely would have kept them on the outside.
- SolarCity yesterday announced it would begin operating in the Orlando, Florida area, initially serving customers of Duke Energy and Orlando Utilities Commission.
- Amendment 1 was billed as pro-solar, but the utility-backed measure would have maintained the status quo on third-party ownership of distributed solar, which is illegal, essentially enshrining the utilities' monopoly.
Florida is among the 10 sunniest states, but it has lagged the country in solar energy partly due to restrictive policies. But the voters' rejection of more utility control over distributed energy has opened the door for SolarCity to begin operating in the state, potentially kicking off a boom that will allow the Sunshine State to live up to its moniker.
In a post on the company's blog, SolarCity said the move into Florida is "something we’ve wanted to announce for a long time." However, third-party-financing is still illegal in Florida, so customers can opt for the company's loan product or use cash instead to pay down arrays, a spokesperson told Utility Dive in an email.
And the company said it likely would not have begun doing business in the state without the rejection of a utility-backed ballot initiative. The expansion "was made possible when the citizens of Florida rejected the anti-solar Amendment 1, which would have made it easier for utilities to add fees to make solar more expensive for customers," SolarCity said.
The initiative was the source of fierce debate leading up to voting day. Solar advocates had asked the Florida Supreme Court to nullify Amendment 1, arguing the measure was intentionally deceptive, but the court declined. Another measure would have legalized third-party financing, but failed to gain enough signatures to make it on the 2016 ballot. It will likely reappear in the next election cycle.
Last month, shareholders approved Tesla Motors' $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity. The deal will help create a company that can deliver integrated solar and battery storage systems to customers around the country. SolarCity said it will operate in the Orlando area from a local installation center in Clermont, and "plans to expand to additional areas of the state in the coming months."