Solar Power to be a serious part of Florida's energy future?

07/16/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Last week at the Florida Climate Change Summit in Miami, Gov. Charlie Crist said he wants Florida’s utilities to generate 1/5th of their electricity from renewables to combat global warming, perhaps by the year 2020.

One energy source that environmentalists hope will get more backing is solar power.

One of the criticisms about solar power is the cost. Photovoltaic systems that collect the sun’s rays and turn them into energy can cost $30,000 or more for an average home.

But last week the director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, said a monthly $1.50 fee on a utility bill could raise more than $200 million a year to invest in a panel installation program.

Holly Binns of the group Environment Florida, says Floridians have to pay more on their utility bills when energy companies want to raise money to develop nuclear or coal plants, so why not do the same for solar power?

Such a program is not unheard of.

Last year, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will allocate more than $3-billion for solar roofs.

Bernadette Del Chiaro with the group Environment California says one factor that led California lawmakers to enact legislation pushing for more solar power was the rolling blackouts that left hundreds of thousands of Californians without electricity in the early part of this decade. The second factor Del Chiaro says, is global warming.

Today, the New York Times reported that despite the new enthusiasm for solar power, the chances of it becoming more than simply a ‘niche’ energy source are questionable, because there currently is not a significant amount of research in private and government labs to see any significant technological breakthroughs.

But Holly Binns from Environment Florida says that’s really not the case.

In fact, Gov. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to sign legislation that would create the nation’s largest solar water heating program.

WMNF attempted to speak with James Fenton from the Florida Solar Energy Center today but he was unavailable. We hope to hear from him later this week.

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