Clean Power gainesville solar feed-in tariff

Published on November 22nd, 2011 | by Stephen Lacey

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Gainesville (Florida) Bigger Per Capita Solar Producer than California

November 22nd, 2011 by  

Advocates for feed-in tariffs (FITs) have long claimed that the policy is the fastest, most efficient method for deploying renewable energy. One need only look at the rapid adoption rates in European countries to see their effectiveness.

FITs require utilities to purchase renewable electricity from system owners over a certain period of time, typically 15-20 years. The rates are calculated to ensure a specific rate of return for different technologies. By providing a guaranteed contract for the electricity over the life of the system, project financing is often simpler and less expensivethan a tax-credit or renewable energy credit system.

Here’s one more experience that advocates say favors FITs: In just three years since Gainesville, Florida adopted the policy for solar PV, the city has deployed almost 7.3 megawatts of systems.That means that this city of 100,000 people has more solar deployed per capita than California — a state with solar incentives in place for more than a decade.

FIT expert Paul Gipe put together this chart showing where Gainesville stacks up with other areas of the world:

gainesville solar feed-in tariff

Officials at the municipal utility running the program, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), say that by the end of the year, cumulative installed solar capacity will be generating about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours per month. That’s enough electricity to service roughly 1,600 average American homes.

Some continue to criticize FITs, saying they’re too inflexible to match market conditions quickly. Indeed, in some countries and provinces, rates have been set too high, leading to unsustainable development and grossly high profits for project developers. But in most cases, like in Germany, rates have been adjusted downward to reflect the changing economics of the technology.

Oddly, even though this is exactly how a FIT program is designed to work, people within the industry react negatively to these changes.

To some critics, Gainesville’s program has been just that — a program, not a market. The popularity of the FIT causes a burst of activity when GRU starts taking applications. The program quickly becomes over-subscribed and is halted for months while the projects are completed.

However, one need only look at the ups and downs in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania — states with tradeable credit mechanisms that were supposed to create a sustained market — to see that similar problems can occur with a floating market-based approach to incentives.

Over the years, states have opted to develop credit-based programs over FITs. But if the city of Gainesville continues to put up impressive numbers and show that it can support a sustainable industry, perhaps the mechanism will get more attention from U.S. regulators.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

 
 
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About the Author

is an editor at Greentech Media. Formerly, he was a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he wrote about clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.



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  • Boston

    The Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) feed-in tariff system is a perfect example. A perfect example, that is, of how NOT to administer a program, which, from the Gainesville communities’ perspective is widely regarded now, as a dismal failure. Yes, it could have been a good program to promote solar installation. Unfortunately it was rife with controversy and crony capitalism.

    The problem was that Solar Impact, a Gainesville, FL solar contractor, was permitted by GRU to cheat the lottery-style system by submitting incomplete applications in the names of unregistered LLCs, and making application for multiple systems per roof top (other contractors were not permitted to do the same). This practice, simply stated, resulted in a stacked deck which significantly disadvantaged other solar contractors, applicants, and Solar Impact’s own customers in the selection process. Subsequently, Solar Impact was awarded 80% of the commercial capacity.

    Small solar arrays comprise much of the 7.3 MW in Gainesville; however, the largest feed-in tariff systems currently in operation there, are owned by German companies which have no other ties to the community. Participation in the feed-in tariff program by foreign companies results in a transfer of wealth out of the Gainesville area.

    Civil suits are currently pending against GRU and Solar Impact.

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  • Ken O

    EDITOR: please tell writer to update title from “That” to “Than” and dock her $0.25 for the error. Cheers.

    • Anonymous

      Haha, updated. thanks!

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