The solar power industry needs to be discussed on a state-by-state basis. This is because the rules and payback incentives vary significantly from state to state – even sometimes by the county or city. In this article, we are going to look at Florida for its “Solar Friendliness”.
With a nickname like the Sunshine State, you probably can guess that Florida is a very popular state for residential solar. Florida ranks 4th in the country for solar power with nearly a million homes operating with solar panels.
The Sunshine State is just that - sunshine is plentiful down here. Florida has one of the highest numbers of sunshine days of all the states in the country. Add to that, recently Florida decided to allow solar leases. Adding the option to lease your solar system will put many more solar systems on roofs in Florida.
Leasing lets homeowners make the decision to go solar even if they don't have sufficient credit to get a solar loan.
Leasing isn't for everybody, but it does allow homeowners to pay a fixed monthly amount for the leasing company to install a solar system on their roof. The downside to leasing a system is that the homeowner doesn't own the solar system until the end of the lease when they pay it off. But it does stabilize the monthly power payments so the homeowner will have no fluctuation in their monthly costs.
Like most States, Florida gets most of its power from natural gas and coal. These two resources are not very expensive but they are dirty and are pretty bad for the environment. Florida has electricity rates that are below the national average. Even though that is the case, Florida residents who choose solar will still see a decrease in their monthly payments, and the savings from solar will be sufficient so homeowners are paying off their solar system on an average of 7 to 8 years.
NET METERING AND UTILITY CREDITS
Net metering is the accounting system that utilities use to credit their customers for the extra electricity they create using their solar panels. One great thing about going solar in Florida is that their net metering program is very strong - very pro-consumer.
In Florida, any excess electricity that your solar panels produce automatically gets sent back into the electric grid. Smart meters on the house keep track of the amount that has been sent back to the utility and the homeowner gets credited for that amount. Then later, the homeowner gets to use all of these credits to get electricity from the utility at no extra cost.
Homeowners are essentially using the power company as a huge electricity bank. Additionally, customers of the Orlando Utilities Commission will receive five cents for every kilowatt-hour that their system produces. That includes power they send back and power that they use. Florida has one of the best Net Metering arrangements in the country.
If you live in Florida and you install solar panels on your roof, you are immediately eligible for the federal tax credit. The federal tax credit was slated to be closed at the end of 2020 but the government extended it for another two years. With this law, the federal government will credit your federal taxes equal to 26% of the cost of your system. This tax credit is available throughout the country, not just in Florida.
A tax credit of 26% is a sizable savings. Oftentimes, solar companies will add their own incentive to this Federal rebate. Additionally, residents of Florida who add solar systems to their roofs are exempt from sales tax in Florida on that system. Another state incentive is that the increase in property taxes is also exempt from Florida state tax. Tax policies in individual states change frequently and you should contact a professional tax preparer to find out what the current policy is.
If you're fortunate enough to live in the city of Longwood, Florida, you live in the only place in Florida that offers state-level solar rebates. The State of Florida generally does not offer solar rebates to help pay for the cost of the solar system. However, Florida’s extremely strong net-metering policy goes a long way to saving solar customers money every month that they own the system. Over time, net metering pays you more money than a State investment rebate payout.
Longwood, Florida, the only place in Florida that offers state-level solar rebates.
The biggest question that people usually have about installing solar on their home is when will it pay for itself.And how much will it pay? Well naturally, how much a homeowner will save will depend on the system size and their electricity use.
In Florida, you should expect a payback period of 7-9 years. The “payback period” is the period of time that the savings on the solar panel system will add up to enough to pay for itself. After that period, the excess money will stay in your pocket.
That's good news for the homeowner but it's hard to put a price on knowing that you created your own electricity and the only fuel you used was sunshine. You did your part to clean the air in your city and you paid less than you would have if you stayed with utility.
LEASES, LOANS, AND PAYING CASH
In Florida, you have three different options to pay for your system. Let's take a look at them:
OUTRIGHT PURCHASE -this option isn't for everyone but it is the most straightforward. You find out how much the system costs and you write out a check. Plain and simple.
SOLAR LOAN - This is similar to paying cash except that you take out a loan for the amount of the purchase. This is the most common way that people put solar on their homes. Even with the interest on the loan, the monthly cost is usually less than what you would have paid the utility. Normally, the solar installer has a relationship with a solar loan company to provide you with a loan. Across the country, rooftop solar systems which are paid for with solar loans have an average payback period of 7-8 years.
SOLAR LEASE -When you lease your system, the actual equipment remains the property of the solar installer.You don't own the solar panels nor will you be eligible to get the federal income tax credit. You still will get the savings that solar provides versus your utility. Leasing companies usually do not require a down payment so the savings by going solar heart easy to compare with the solar purchase.
Because the Solar Company maintains ownership of the solar system, homeowners with a low credit score can still get solar on their houses.
It's good to remember that the solar system might not cover the entire monthly bill every month and you may need to pay the utility a little bit in some months.
Florida reached #4 in the country by providing a great environment for homeowners to go solar. Nearly a million Florida homeowners are paying less because they have decided to put solar on their homes.
The way to find out if solar is a good fit for your home is to get a price from a reputable company. A good solar company will audit your electricity use and do a site survey to give you a tailored estimate.