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New solar amendment offers 'huge incentive for businesses'

Florida lawmakers implement voter-approved amendment from August

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State lawmakers weren’t able to agree on medical marijuana, but they wasted no time implementing the solar amendment voters approved last August.

The sponsor, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called the amendment transformational.
  
A 120-acre solar field is about to go up on the outskirts of Tallahassee. It will be owned by a private company on land leased from the city.

Under legislation implementing the constitutional amendment approved by voters, the company won’t be taxed for 80 percent of the $30 million in panels it installs.

“So, it’s a huge incentive for businesses,” Brandes said.

The amendment and implementing legislation will define Florida’s future, he added.

“You’re going to see, over the next 10 or 15 years, a significant transition to more solar,” Brandes said. “And this bill -- and they will point to this bill as being one of the impetuses of that.”

The tax break was approved by a bigger percentage of voters than those who said yes to medical marijuana.
 
“And even with this amendment alone, it’s going to be a very different place,” said Aliki Moncrief, of the Florida Conservation Voters. “It’s going to be a cleaner, greener energy state.”
 
The upside for governments or businesses is, with no fuel to buy, contractors can offer a steady price for power for 20 or 30 years at a time.
 
The tax break is expected to be a big incentive for utilities to invest in large-scale solar.
 
“It doesn’t give us any grief at all,” Moncrief said. “ ... This is an incentive for the utilities to start improving their record on how much solar they are installing.”

Florida now ranks 12th nationally in solar installations. The state is expected to be seventh within the next five years, in part because voters said yes in August.

While businesses will still pay 20 percent of the tax that would have been due on solar equipment, homeowners have had a 100 percent property tax break on solar equipment since 2013.

The business break is expected to cost local governments $54 million a year.