Top Cities for Solar Energy in Florida (2021)
Solar energy is growing in popularity — especially amongst homeowners who are looking to reduce their carbon footprints, lower their electric bills and move away from being dependent on traditional forms of energy. Nicknamed the "Sunshine State," it's no surprise Florida has been a top state for solar installation in the U.S.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state of Florida has the fourth-highest solar installation rate in the country, lagging just behind North Carolina, Texas and California. The state's total solar investment clocks in at $9.6 billion — and that number is only expected to grow.
Of course, even in one of the sunniest states in America, solar energy is more popular in certain geographic areas than others, which may leave you wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Florida?
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Florida
To narrow down the top cities for solar energy in Florida, our team compiled and examined reports generated by the SEIA and Energy Information Administration, solar generation maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on our research, we have deemed the following 10 cities to be hubs for solar energy in Florida:
- Fort Myers
- Fort Lauderdale
- West Palm Beach
- St. Petersburg
- Winter Park
Taking the top spot on our list of top cities for solar in Florida is Jacksonville. In the latest Shining Cities report, Jax ranked No. 13 in the country for total installed solar PV capacity, outranking places including Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and New Orleans. The city has implemented a number of programs to make solar more accessible to its residents, including a rebate of $4,000 per home on solar battery purchases.
Tampa is another solar leader in the Sunshine State, boasting a solar installation rate that averages out to 42 watts per resident (as of December 2019). With an average of 246 sunny days annually, the city is well situated to truly reap the benefits of solar. Summers are hot, and while the area is humid in certain months, the winter and early spring are mild and dry.
Orlando comes in just below Tampa with about 35 watts of solar PV per person through the end of 2019. Nestled snug in the middle of the state, the city is exposed to ample sunshine year-round, making solar energy a natural choice to combat high traditional electric bills, and residents have eagerly embraced the utility cost savings that solar can offer.
The southernmost city on this list, Miami has a tropical climate with pleasantly warm winters and long and muggy summers — as well as plenty of sun. Yes, the area gets its share of rain, but that doesn't stand in the way of solar being a great investment for residents. The city of Miami is fast-tracking its solar panel installation: It has about 10 watts installed per person, and that number is steadily increasing.
5. Fort Myers
NREL maps show Fort Myers has one of the most highly concentrated potentials for rooftop solar generation in the state. Something else that makes this Southwest Florida city stand out is its proximity to Babcock Ranch, the first solar-powered town in America. The planned community is located just 25 miles north of Fort Myers.
6. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, receives over 3,000 hours of yearly sunshine. And rightfully so, the city has recognized the need to harness the power of natural sunlight to produce clean energy. Fort Lauderdale is an active participant in the GoSolar Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is focused on making it easier and more affordable for homeowners to install rooftop solar PV, and has local financing programs and community co-ops to help lower the cost of solar panels.
7. West Palm Beach
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach benefits from a tropical climate and abundant sunshine year-round. The city has embraced multiple forms of clean energy and is focused on phasing out oil and coal, while simultaneously boosting solar usage. West Palm Beach seeks to employ at least 30 million solar panels by 2030.
Melbourne is another coastal Florida city that soaks up sunshine all year long. NREL maps show this area has an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar installation, and residents have been cashing in on their prime positioning. One reason for this may be that the average solar investment comes with a sizable return — according to Google's Project Sunroof, Melbourne residents stand to save $8,000 over 20 years after buying solar panels.
9. St. Petersburg
Situated in West Florida just south of Tampa, St. Pete has been nicknamed "The Sunshine City," averaging 361 days of sunshine each year. In fact, the city set a Guinness World Record between 1967 and 1969 for logging 768 days of sunshine. Knowing that, it's probably no surprise NREL maps show the area as having one of the state's highest potentials for rooftop solar energy generation.
10. Winter Park
Winter Park, located just outside of Orlando, was the first city in Central Florida to offer residents PACE financing for solar panels — and its commitment to solar energy has only continued to expand. Recently, the City of Winter Park was even awarded a SolSmart Gold designation for its strides toward renewable energy and its efforts to make installations faster, easier and more affordable for residents.
Where Solar Panels Make the Most Sense
Solar panels generally work best in cities that have regular and constant exposure to sunlight on an annual basis. Additionally, areas where winters tend to be shorter and less harsh stand to benefit more from solar energy. This alone demonstrates why there are so many solar-embracing cities all across Florida.
Renewable energy systems are also more attractive in cities that have adopted incentives for their residents, such as Jacksonville's solar battery rebate program. Many cities that didn't make our top 10 list offer solar rebates and low-interest loan programs, including Longwood, Tallahassee and Lauderhill.
Another factor that goes into where solar makes sense is local energy costs. Generally speaking, Florida's energy costs are high, which makes an investment in solar energy a worthy choice. If this were not the case, and the cost of energy wasn't above average, then the benefits associated with solar energy would be reduced.
Average Florida Electricity Costs
According to the EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a Florida resident is $129.65, with normal monthly consumption totaling 1,108 kWh. Comparing these numbers to other South Atlantic states, Florida is one of the clear leaders in terms of cost and consumption, making solar energy a natural choice for reducing bills as well as minimizing traditional energy output.
Florida Solar Tax Incentives
When considering solar energy, it is also important to learn about any tax rebates or incentives that are provided by the state. Along with city-specific programs, all Florida homeowners can benefit from the following statewide incentives:
|Florida Solar Incentive||Details|
|Property Tax Exemption||
Installing a solar panel system will up the value of your home,
but this mandate ensures you won't have to pay higher property
taxes due to the increased value.
|Sales Tax Exemption||
Florida's 6% sales tax is not applied to the purchase of solar
panels or related installation equipment.
Also worth noting is Florida's net metering program. This is one of the most important regulatory policies pertaining to residential solar owners in Florida. It allows a homeowner to sell excess solar energy that is generated by the grid, resulting in a cost savings.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
On a federal level, Florida residents who invest in solar can also receive a 26% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). This applies to people who buy their PV system outright either through a cash purchase or through a solar loan or financing.
Florida Solar Regulations
The state of Florida has numerous regulations that must be followed as it pertains to solar energy. The most prominent, however, is the Florida Solar Rights Act. This restricts any person or group, inclusive of homeowners associations, from barring solar or other renewable energy device installation on any building. Additionally, an HOA cannot require that a homeowner's solar system be screened from view by trees, fences, remote roof location or any other means.
All in all, based on the high need to use energy in Florida in order to keep houses cool, solar is a great choice. Plus, residents are well-positioned to receive cost savings by embracing this form of clean, renewable energy.