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Solar Rebates and Incentives for Florida

Due to overwhelming response, Florida rebate incentives have been temporarily frozen. The state is no longer accepting new applications for home solar power systems at this time. Please check with your local solar installers for more information.
Thousands of miles of beaches, a tropical climate, and millions of tanned faces all warmed by the ever-present sun. It’s now wonder that Florida, the Sunshine State, should be a virtual breeding ground for solar energy systems. And that is exactly where Florida is headed thanks to some big legislative moves in the last few years. While Florida has no sweeping program, such as California’s Million Solar Roofs, the Sunshine State has made some bold moves, from making solar tax credits permanent to offering one of the most ambitious rebates in the nation.
Renewable Energy Sales Tax Exemption
Since 1997 solar hot water systems, space heating systems, PV, and even pool heating have been exempt from any state sales and use taxes. In 2005 the tax credits were made permanent. The exemptions are available as a refund of previously paid taxes.
Note: In order to receive the refund you need to file an application, along with proof-of-purchase, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption
Available only for Photovoltaic and solar hot water systems, this property tax credit entitles homeowners to a tax exemption equal to the original cost of the device, including installation. The legislation, enacted in June of 2008 (reviving an old law that had expired in 1990) does not take effect until January 1, 2009. Therefore, eligible systems must be installed on or after that date.

  • Systems that have been active for less than one calendar year prior to application will receive an appropriately reduced exemption.
  • The exemption does not cover costs from replacing, removing, or improving existing property during installation.

Solar Energy Systems Incentives Program
This state rebate program, active through 2010, is one of the most ambitious in the nation. It covers solar water heating, PV, and solar pool heating. Incentive amounts are as follows:

  • PV - $4.00/watt DC, max. $20,000
  • Hot Water - $500
  • Pool - $100

These rebates apply to PV systems that are 2 kW or larger. Solar hot water systems must provide at least 50% of the home’s hot water consumption. In addition, all equipment used must be approved by the Florida Solar Energy Center and installed by a state-licensed professional. Florida does not allow for self-installed systems.
Note: At $4/watt, this remarkable program has seen a huge influx of applications. Due to the long waiting list, the funds allocated for 2008-2009 have already been spent! The state is currently accepting applications for funding that may be appropriated for 2009-2010. Whatever funding is available will be handed out on a first come-first serve basis.
See the SolarPowerRocks website, and scroll down, for an excellent example of how this very lucrative rebate program would break down.
Net metering has been around in Florida for some time, but it was always left up to the utilities to dictate terms. Just this year, the state enacted its own net metering law. The law, which only applies to investor-owned utilities, covers systems up to 2 MW in size. Electric cooperatives and municipal utilities do not have to adhere to the law (although many voluntarily offer net metering, on their own terms.)
The rules and regulations governing Florida’s net metering law divide eligible systems into three tiers:

  • Tier 1 - 10 kW or less
  • Tier 2 - 10 to 100 kW
  • Tier 3 - 100 kW up to 2 MW

Advantages for Tier 1 systems, where most residential systems will fall, include:

  • No application fees, no interconnection studies, no liability insurance.
  • Utilities are prohibited from charging any extra standby, capacity, or metering fees in addition to those charged to customers that are NOT net-metered.
  • In addition, the utility must, at its own expense, install smart meters or other meters in order to track power flow in both directions.

Perhaps the most ambitious clause in Florida’s net metering law, and what separates it from most of the voluntary programs that the utilities have in place, is buy-back. Net excess electricity provided by the homeowner to the utility must be bought back, at the close of the 12 month cycle, at retail prices.
Literally in just the last six months, Florida has propelled itself to the forefront of the state solar movement in the U.S. With property tax credits, net metering, and the most generous per-watt rebate I have yet researched, Florida is making quite an impression. Provided enough funds are available, and the state rebate program renewed, Florida is set to accelerate fast and furious into the solar industry. The Sunshine State—aptly named indeed!
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