America’s solar industry experienced the strongest growth in its history under the Trump Administration. With fewer unnecessary regulations and less obstructive red tape, the free market was able to naturally select the most competitive energy sources. This led to the proliferation of solar.
This week is National Clean Energy Week, which offers an important opportunity to reflect on ways in which we can increase the growth of cleaner energy options that create jobs, lower costs, and make our communities more resilient.
Solar farms offer that opportunity and we should encourage, rather than stifle, the development of more solar farms. Solar energy is cost-effective, reliable and abundant here in the Sunshine State, and if allowed to compete on fair footing, it has the potential to benefit Floridians in myriad ways.
The way we use and produce electricity has changed drastically in the last few decades and so have the costs of generation. Some people may think that solar relies on subsidies to remain competitive. That may have been the case over ten years ago, but is no longer true. Thanks to advancements in technology and innovation, solar is now the lowest cost form of electricity, even when all subsidies are removed from consideration. Furthermore, solar farms are not subject to fluctuating fuel prices like natural gas or coal. Sunshine will always be free.
Solar farms also drive economic development in the region where they are located. In High Springs, Florida, a new solar array is expected to create over 200 local construction jobs and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues. This will mean millions in tax revenue over the solar farm’s expected life.
Beyond that, the purchase of various goods and services during the construction phase will also provide an economic boost to local businesses. Local leadership will be able to allocate the additional funds as they see fit, benefitting schools, infrastructure and county services. Investing in clean energy sources right here in our state produces a far greater return on investment than spending billions of dollars annually to purchase out-of-state fuel.
Not only do solar farms produce good-paying local jobs, but the proximity to clean energy can attract job-creating companies to consider relocation and expansion. This new infrastructure makes many industrial sites more attractive for development.
Solar farms are unique in that they contribute to economic development while also protecting against ever-encroaching urban sprawl that threatens the natural beauty found throughout Florida.
Unlike other commercial developments, solar farms can easily be removed at the end of their lifecycles, allowing the land to transition back to agricultural uses. Solar arrays do not hurt the environment. In fact, most solar farms can be built to provide habitats for wildlife.
With more homegrown, sustainable electricity on our grid, we can enjoy greater energy independence, economic growth, and responsible conservation. Solar energy is an important part of Florida’s transition to renewable energy, but it doesn’t require heavy-handed government mandates to flourish. Allowing the free market to drive the energy industry will ensure that ratepayers receive the most affordable and reliable electricity available. Let’s allow solar to compete on its own merits – of which there are many – in a fair and unbiased regulatory structure.
George Riley is the Florida Director of Conservatives for Clean Energy. He previously served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida from 2016-2019.