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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.

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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.

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

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