Customers Able to ‘Sell’ Energy Produced by Solar Panels back to Gainesville Regional Utilities for next Twenty Years. Expansion of program into other areas could create revenue stream for Community Associations struggling with foreclosures and bad debt.
Installing renewable energy improvements, such as solar panels, generally involves a large up-front cost. To encourage the use of renewable energy, many countries institute a “feed-in” tariff system. Feed-in tariffs (FITs) basically guarantee that homeowners and small business owners who generate more electricity than they use are able to sell that electricity back into the system and receive long-term payments for each kilowatt-hour produced. As a further incentive, the rates set for each unit of electricity produced from a renewable resource are often much higher than what the market would ordinarily pay.
The Gainesville City Commission was the first in the nation to approve a feed-in tariff for solar PV energy production. Owners of solar panels will be paid 32 cents per kilowatt hour sold back into the system. Compare that to the average rates charged throughout Florida and you will see what a wise and sustainable investment this program creates. According to FPL’s website and other sources, residential customers generally pay approximately 9-12 cents per kilowatt hour of energy. With tax credits and low-cost renewable energy loans, owners are predicting the systems will pay for themselves in as little as six (6) years and thereafter expect returns that make a profit in an amount of up to 20%. The Gainesville program was so popular that it fulfilled its 2009 goals in just three weeks.
There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of rebate and incentive programs in Florida. Community associations struggling to make ends meet can reduce their costs for energy usage with retrofits and changes in practices. Expansion of this feed-in tariff system to other portions of Florida provides community associations with not only the opportunity to save money, but to create an additional revenue stream, reducing the financial burdens to homeowners.
This type of program would certainly benefit the Sarasota County rancher that spent a half million dollars to install solar systems on her property. Since the panels aren’t connected to multiple meters, the extra energy generated by the panels is ‘sold’ back to FPL at a discount rate which is approximately half of the retail rate paid for electricity used at the site.
Foreclosures and bad debt plague Florida’s community associations. Governmental programs designed to help Floridians reduce their energy expenses are sorely needed and there is a likelihood that property values in associations with lower expenses (and lower maintenance fees) will rise faster than other similar properties.