Has Florida Started A New Solar Legislation Trend?

In a 33–0 vote, and in what some see as the beginning of a national trend to increase the appeal of commercial solar installations, the Florida Senate passed SB-90 ("Renewable Energy Source Devices"), a bill that would, beginning in 2018, make solar and renewable energy equipment installed on commercial buildings exempt from property taxes for 20 years, an exemption that Floridian homeowners already enjoy on their residential installations.

Impetus for the legislation occurred in August 2016, when 73 percent of Floridians voted for the solar tax break as part of Amendment 4. Floridians preferred Amendment 4 to an alternate amendment (Amendment 1), which would have required that third-party ownership of distributed solar remain illegal, something that voters felt would slow the growth of solar in the state.

After some changes to Amendment 4, the House passed the legislation in February, and the Senate passed it (as SB-90) this past month.

This revised version is viewed by those in the solar industry as more consumer-friendly than even what was initially proposed in Amendment 4, as a result of additional language to SB-90 that expanded the definition of "renewable energy source devices."

Part of the reason Floridians and their elected officials are so keen on the idea of tax breaks for businesses for solar installations, of course, is to help the state continue to move forward with its renewable energy efforts as a way to improve the environment. There is another reason, though. According to data from The Solar Foundation, solar employment in Florida increased by 1,700 jobs in 2016, about a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Currently, Florida employs about 8,200 people in solar work.

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