Orlando Solar – Everything You Need to Know

solar-orlando

Information about Solar Panels in Orlando, FL

If you’re looking into solar power situation in Orlando, you’ll find a fairly mixed bag of ups and downs. From a practical standpoint, Orlando is a fantastic place to install a rooftop solar array. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Florida ranks 3rd overall in the potential energy that could be gained from rooftop solar, with only California and Texas coming out ahead. All that sunshine can do wonderful things to your energy bills.

Unfortunately, the outlook is a little less sunny politically speaking, with minimal support for solar throughout the state. We give Florida a rank of ‘B-’ overall – whilst there’s not much stopping you, you won’t find the support that you might find in more forward-thinking states.

Let’s take a closer look.

For a broader state overview, see our Florida solar page.

 

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#1 Overall Solar Grade

C
Overall Grade
13 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
6.4 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$12,755 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* Note that these are estimated values for informational purposes only, and do not take into account the full complexity of all financial projections. They also only apply to cash purchases, which means your numbers will be different if you lease your system or pay for it with a loan (factoring in interest). Also note that we are not financial advisors, so this information should not be construed as financial advice.

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Orlando, Florida

We’re going to base our examples off a recent report by NREL, which provides us with an average cost of $16,466 for a typical 5kW home solar installation. That’s a good size, balancing the costs of installation and maintenance against the savings you’ll see on your energy bills. We’ll use this figure as our starting point for working out what kind of returns you might expect from investing in a solar system. As always when dealing with averages, keep in mind that things are rarely so neat in the real world – depending on your needs and situation, your own system may cost less or more than our $16.6k figure. Most solar systems are warrantied for 25 years, after which the output is expected to drop below 80%. We’ll use this as the period you can expect to see returns in.

Cash Upfront

florida-solar-home

For most people, $16,466 is a big chunk of change, and paying up front means you need to drop it all in one go. To ease the sting somewhat you can take advantage of the Federal Tax Credit, which gives you 30% the value of the system off your income taxes – $4,940. If that’s less than your taxes for the year any remaining will roll over and be credited to you on the next year.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll make a few assumptions about your energy costs – the average home in Florida uses about 13,700 kWh of energy every year, at a cost of 11.39¢/kWh. Using NREL’s PVWatts calculator, a typical system in Orlando might deliver around 7300 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year – that’s a saving of around $831 dollars. Add that to the tax credit, and you’re looking at savings of $5,771 in the first year!

The beauty of solar power is that once the system is in place it will keep generating energy, with only a very minor decrease in solar output each year. After the expense of getting the system installed, you only have to deal with maintenance costs, which tend to be minor – not much beyond keeping the panels clean of dust, pollen and other detritus. Contrast that against the expense of buying energy from your utility – on average in Florida the cost of energy increases by 2% every year. More locally, Florida Power and Light (FPL) has asked for a price hike of 24% over the next 3 years!

Bottom Line: Paying with cash in our example gets the system is paid off within the 12th year, and during the rest of its warrantied life the system will bring in $12,755 in profit.

Leases

In many states, leasing your solar system can be a very attractive option. In exchange for a lower long-term payout, many installers offer a zero-down lease – you pay nothing up front.

Likewise, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) involve allowing a supplier to install a solar system on your roof, and then paying a monthly fee for the power. These are often a better deal if you have very high energy requirements.

Bottom Line:  Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of Florida’s restrictive utility monopoly utility law means that leasing your panels from a supplier is effectively banned, so we’ll need to look elsewhere for methods of financing the installation.

More: Solar Leases

Loans

solar-loan-orlando-fl

In most circumstances you would assume that the best way to get returns on an investment is to fund it yourself. In this case, however, getting some sort of loan can be a surprisingly good choice. For many people $16,466 is a sizable chunk of change, and paying it up front is impractical at best. Taking out the right loan can not only give you the financial backing to install your system, but thanks to the nature of the energy market it can actually work out in your favor.

For our example, we’ll assume that you take out a 15 year loan with an interest rate of 5% or less – it might be something like a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Because you’re doing the financing, you’re still eligible for the 30% federal tax credit. That gives you a return right out of the gate!

Bottom Line: With our example, the solar installation will earn you $5,726 in profit over its life, and that’s without putting any of your own money in to get the system installed.

More: Solar Loans, Image Credit

#3 Orlando, Fl Solar Policy Information

Florida is a bit of a mixed bag, policy wise – there’s not much in the way of help, but for smaller home systems there are very few barriers and a couple of aids to getting a system installed.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

At the time of writing, Florida doesn’t have any sort of renewable portfolio standard (RPS) – these are commitments by the state government towards ensuring a certain percentage of the power used in the state is generated by renewable resources – usually wind or solar power.

As Florida doesn’t have an RPS, there’s no direct support from the state aimed at getting people into solar.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

As mentioned above Florida electricity runs an average of 11.39¢/kWh, but remember that 2% per year increases are normal in Florida.

Net Metering

Net metering is a system that lets you sell any unused power back to the grid. Your electricity monitors your usage and also how much of a surplus you create, and credits you accordingly.

Florida established net metering laws back in 2008, allowing anything up to 2 megawatt systems to benefit generating an energy surplus. It’s safe to say that any home solar installation you could want is covered under those terms!

There are some rules governing the systems that can connect to the grid, but as long as your installation is less than 10 kilowatts those rules don’t apply and you can connect whatever you’d like. Larger systems need to meet a variety of requirements before they can connect to the power grid, including liability insurance, external cutoffs, application fees and deposits.

More: Net Metering

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

Back in 2013, Florida offered the Florida Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program. Unfortunately they severely underestimated the demand, and the program was heavily over-subscribed. It quickly ran out of money, and the program was shut down. At the time of writing, the state of Florida offers no other rebates for setting up solar systems.

Federal Tax Credit

Aside from the 30% federal tax credit mentioned above, there aren’t any credits available for solar power in Florida. The federal credit was originally only available until 2007, but was extended to 2018, and is intended to be phased out gradually after that. There

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit 

Property Tax Exemption

This is one place where Florida really shines! Any value added to your home by your solar system is 100% exempt from property taxes. This is fantastic news if you’re going solar – your home value can increase by as much as $20 for dollar you save on your electricity every year. This is due to the decrease in the maintenance costs of your home.

Sales Tax Exemption

To add another sparkle to things, Florida also exempts all solar energy systems from sales taxes. The details are laid out in the Florida Statutes, Section 212.08, subsection hh, if you feel like wading through the legalese. To cut to the heart of the matter, that’s a 7% saving on any solar energy system or solar component that you buy!

General Increase in Home Value

According to the Appraisal institute, adding solar power to your home tends to increase its value significantly. Whilst giving precise figures for the improvements you might see in the Florida real-estate market is tricky (most of the studies on the value increases have focused on California), it’s pretty much universally agreed across the US that solar systems improve home value. Solar energy systems that are fully owned tend to see bigger increases in value than leased systems, though those also improve the price of the house.

More: Buyers Will Pay More for Solar Homes

If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.

What to Do Next?

With no support from the utilities and very minimal help from the state, Florida in general and Orlando specifically could be a much better place for solar. That said, with abundant sunshine and a relatively short payback time, installing a solar energy system is still a good investment. Between OUC’s net-metering scheme, the property and sales tax exemptions and the federal tax credit, solar power is still worth it for an Orlando home.

You still have plenty of options, and if you’re at all interested in installing a solar system my advice would be to dive in and give it a closer look.

Photo Credits – Flickr via CC License: 1, 2

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