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Opinion: Expand solar farms through the free market

OPINION

BY GEORGE RILEY

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.

We should do the same in Florida and 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 10 years ago, but it 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. 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. The purchase of various goods and services during the construction phase will also provide an economic boost to local businesses. County leadership will be able to allocate the additional funds as they see fit, benefiting local schools, infrastructure, and county services.

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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, and they allow the soil to rest and regenerate while remaining economically productive for the landowner.

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 for Conservatives for Clean Energy. He previously served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida from 2016-2019.

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com

  • Where do they get the materials to make the panels?
    Are they polluting some other place on the other side
    Of the world to get the rare earth metals, etc?
    Solar only generates electric in daytime, not a night.
    Are those panels going to be flying around like airplane
    Wings when we get hurricanes? How long do the panels
    Last, maybe 10 years? The future is harnessing the atom…if done safely, there’s nothing to worry about and
    No CO2 emissions. —We need dependable electrical
    Generation and don’t need intermittent power and
    Brownouts…the battery to store the energy is also
    A downfall…the Chinese are mining all the lithium…
    Natural gas, clean coal, & nuclear are good and dependable 24hrs/day…yeah,
    We all want to save the planet, but if the green new
    Deal wants all electric cars by 2030, then nuclear
    Is the way…don’t worry about the radioactive waste,
    It’s recyclable….

  • FL should modify utility law to allow shopping center owners to sell electricity to individual stores.
    Oaks Mall for example could cover the parking lot with solar panels & supply electricity to all the stores!
    The mall closes @ 9 PM so mostly it operates when sun is shining.

    • Shopping centers are closing because people shop
      The internet…all those black solar panels absorb
      A lot of heat. Do you know why trees are green?
      It’s because they reflect the green part of the light
      Spectrum. Trees turn CO2 into oxygen through photosynthesis…we need more trees (oxygen generators) not more hot solar panels like asphalt parking lots…the future is harnessing the atom…the
      Sun is a fusion reactor…thorium reactors like how they
      Have on nuclear submarines or aircraft carriers is the
      Way…when Biden lost and pulled out of Afghanistan, the Chinese swooped
      In real quick to get their minerals. 100% renewable fuel
      By 2030? We will not have a reliable energy grid. Game over. Our GRU biomass plant was a terrible idea…
      Cavemen burned wood…

  • Oaks Mall parking lot isn’t presently a tree canopy site! The choice is between existing black asphalt vs shaded parking under solar panels! The article’s author isn’t addressing nuclear power or anything but solar panels & subsidies / free-market! Further to Oaks Mall example the former Sears store is now repurposed & is no longer retail. So online shopping is also irrelevant to this article!
    The Arbor Day article isn’t featured here! It’s an entirely different story about free trees!

  • If money is all that matters, sure. I hope the GOP has more sense than that. Solar farms generate their heat island effects for nearby neighbors. They take up space where cooler tree canopies and farms, ranches would be. They require giant backup batteries using lithium ion which could exploder catch fire. The rare earth minerals for them require strip mining wherever the elements are found. Yes, technology will improve but not the basic trade offs mentioned too. Sadly, natural gas prices are exploding in Europe this winter, our “progressive” role model’s voters will freeze to death. Then we’ll see how quick voters with common sense start voting again, and put climate quacks back where they belong (in political science school).

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