Advocacy for a “Solar Powered Amelia Island” – An opinion

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Dr. Lawrence S. Lessin, MD, MACP
December 10, 2019

To help protect the planet, reduce the carbon footprint, exploit renewable energy and reduce costs to consumers, businesses and city facilities, several communities in the USA have transitioned to renewable solar energy as their primary source of electrical power. A number of larger cities have become “Solar Cities USA” by substantial migration to solar photovoltaic energy sources with federal support.

For seven months of the year, we live in a retirement community of 8000 in Maryland where an increasing number of homes are “going solar.” In an area with a much lower number of annual sunny days and lower winter but similar summer temperatures compared to Fernandina Beach, our solar system generates more solar power for our 3100 sq ft home, than we consume. We virtually have no electric bills except for an $8 monthly connection fee to our local power company.

What has made this possible for us is the “Power Purchase Agreement” option (PPA) available in our state. This enables permitting and installation of the rooftop system, owned and maintained by the solar provider (in our case Tesla) at no cost to us. Excess power generated goes to Tesla who can sell it to the “grid” or back to us when we need it, for a rate lower than that of our local provider. We also have the option to purchase a small garage “Power Wall” battery storage unit which can be used during power outages for up to one week. An estimate last year for a similar solar system on our 2200 sq ft Fernandina Beach house was over $30,000 plus financing costs.

The main barrier to PPAs in Florida has been the objections of the power companies and the strong power lobby in Tallahassee. This has prevented changes in laws which currently restrict provision of electric power solely to major energy companies, as opposed to consumers, businesses and local governments, the “end users.” It is ironic that in the “Sunshine State” PPAs are not available, and the only current option for the homeowner is the purchase or lease of a costly system, which the buyer owns and must maintain. It is reported that several exceptions have occurred in south Florida.

We advocate developing a partnership with a major national solar provider or a leading local one, with the resources to negotiate with state authorities and power companies to change the laws or allow Amelia Island or Fernandina Beach an exception to PPAs so that every home, business and city facility would have the option to install a solar electric system without cost to the homeowner. I would urge our city manager and city or county commissioners to explore with a national or major local solar company and our elected state and county representatives to initiate action with the state legislature or power authority to achieve the goal of an “all solar Amelia Island” within the next 5 years.

Figure 1. Our home in suburban Maryland with 32 rooftop solar panels, facing southwest. Our neighbor has a similar system and in 2018 had no electric bills and received a $400 rebate check.

Figure 3. Monthly electric power production (yellow) vs. usage (blue). System startup was in mid-February. Excess energy produces is sold by Tesla to the grid. In 9 of 10 months production exceeded usage, even in July when average temperature was in 90s and AC was set at 78F.

Figure 4. First three days of Thanksgiving week 2019. Weather was partly cloudy and rain, temperatures 40s and 30s.

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Lawrence S. Lessin is a retired physician and proponent of the use of solar power.  Before his retirement, he served as medical director of The Washington Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center, and former Professor of Medicine and Pathology at George Washington University Medical Center.  Lessin has developed a national reputation as a medical educator, cancer program administrator and provider of high quality cancer care.  He was recognized as one of the Best Doctors in the United States of America (Good Housekeeping Magazine), Best Medical Specialists in the United States (Town and Country Magazine), and named to the list of Washingtonian Top Doctors.



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7 Responses to Advocacy for a “Solar Powered Amelia Island” – An opinion

  1. Robert Warner says:

    Great article. Great technology. His comments about Florida’s “power structure” are spot on. Promote solar power here, don’t make it difficult. Hope our local and State reps listen up.

  2. Joan BOND says:

    Why hasn’t this been looked into on every occasion the FPU decides to increase our bill ? This is a wonderful idea and would so help our seniors (me being one) with the high cost of electricity. It’s a wonderful article and I hope Dr. Lessin pushes this to the limit.

  3. Ken Manning says:

    Many of my neighbors here in Oyster Bay have rooftop solar panels and sell the balance back to FPL so, what’s the problem?
    I prefer individual initiatives to forcing a solution by government fiat. That’s why I LEFT MARYLAND and do not want their left-wing policies replicated here.
    Furthermore, Amelia Island rightly touts our location in a major migratory bird flyway. Indeend, Oyster Bay contains a bird sanctuary. Large Solar fields in California are called “Condor Killers”. Would we want a lot of dead birds here?

    • Robert Warner says:

      FPL is, essentially, government by corporate fiat. It directly or indirectly controls – or influences by legislation promoted or adopted by our own local State reps (Byrd and Bean) most all local and private energy initiatives. That’s the problem. “Left wing policies…” I think not.

    • Richard Kurpiers says:

      The article neither mentions nor advocates for solar farms on Amelia Island. So I’m not sure what purpose is served by mentioning California’s “Condor Killers”.

  4. Chris Hadden says:

    Completely agree. Solar is coming to Florida in a big way despite the foot dragging that we see from the power companies. The reason, it just keeps getting cheaper to produce power from the sun. Year after year the numbers just keep getting better for solar. The state is blessed with all the sun it needs. Lets stop burning things to make electricity. I am all for any proposal that helps speed up the inevitable market shift.

  5. Charles Birchmore says:

    Amelia Island’s beautiful tree canopy doesn’t allow for efficient use of roof mounted solar panels in many locations. I enjoy the beauty of my trees and their natural cooling shade. Let’s not risk the loss of any more trees to generate a few more watts of electricity!

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