A Cloud Over Sunshine State Solar

Image: Pixabay

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

A bill sitting on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk could take away local government’s decision-making about their energy choices, including where to build large-scale solar arrays.

  • The outcome will impact the historically Black town of Archer, where Origis Energy and Gainesville Regional Utilities want to build a 50-megawatt solar farm.
  • Archer residents don’t want to be the host for the latest form of industrial development — and the clean energy produced would go to Gainesville, not their home.

As E&E reports, the Archer project “highlights an emerging rift between President Biden’s environmental justice and clean energy goals.”

Why This Matters: Rapidly scaling clean energy is key to fighting climate change, but that development shouldn’t come at the cost of ignoring community input–especially from frontline communities. Gov. DeSantis currently has two energy bills on his desk: one that would prohibit local governments from stopping solar projects on agricultural land — which would allow the Archer project to move forward — and one that would stop local goals of procuring 100% renewable energy. Taken together, they would significantly roll back the ability of Floridians to make choices about their energy, instead putting these decisions into the hands of the state legislature that’s heavily influenced by the state’s utilities. 

Location, location, location: As the Biden administration moves forward with its clean energy and infrastructure plans, where exactly new large-scale projects are developed matters. 

Recognize the need for utility-scale solar facilities to move to a clean energy future, and recognize that those facilities still exert their own environmental and social impacts,” said Kim Ross, executive director of the pro-renewables group ReThink Energy Florida, testifying before a Florida Senate committee in April. “There are times where solar in a particular location is not appropriate.”

Biden has promised that underserved communities will receive 40% of the “benefits” from clean energy investments, E&E reports, which advocates want to see used for community and rooftop solar projects. 

Solar Co-Ops: When it comes to rooftop solar, Solar United Neighbors is working in Florida and other states across the country to make clean energy easier through solar co-ops. The co-op process brings together a group of homeowners (or even renters in some cases) to benefit from a localized array of solar panels. Co-ops like these are one more tool that can help bring emissions-free power to communities that have traditionally been priced out of distributed energy resources. 

Go Deeper: Meet Kristal Hansley, the first Black woman to launch a community solar company.

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