Florida Bans Use Of Solar Panels In Wake Of Irma

Florida bans solar panels following Irma

Officials in Florida have banned residents from using solar panels, as 371,000 people are still without electricity following the impact of hurricane Irma. 

Many Florida Power and Light’s grid customers who are living through dangerous heat without power now have solar panels on their roofs that could keep them going while FPL repairs its infrastructure. However, doing so has been made illegal, thanks to FPL’s lobbyists, who ghost-wrote Florida’s strict solar rules.

Libertyblitzkrieg.com reports: Here’s some of what we learned about this situation from a fascinating article published by the Miami New Times, Why Didn’t FPL Do More to Prepare for Irma?

Hurricane Wilma, the last ‘cane to hit South Florida, tore through the area in 2005 and killed power to 3.24 million of FPL’s then-4.3 million customers (75 percent of the grid). Many of those customers had to wait up to two weeks for power to return. Since then, the company has spent more than $2 billion supposedly girding itself against the next storm, according to a Sun Sentinel piece published before Irma hit.

But after Irma, which by most reports brought only Category 1-strength winds to South Florida, by some measures the company did even worse. Despite all of those upgrades, an even larger percentage of FPL’s customer base — 4.4 of 4.9 million customers, almost 90 percent — lost electricity this past weekend.

FPL and its parent company, NextEra Energy, have for years heavily influenced state and local politics through donations, making billions in profits each year ($1.7 billion alone in 2016) thanks to favorable state laws that are sometimes literally written by the power company’s own lobbyists.

FPL’s lobbying wing has fought hard against letting Floridians power their own homes with solar panels. Thanks to power-company rules, it’s impossible across Florida to simply buy a solar panel and power your individual home with it. You are instead legally mandated to connect your panels to your local electric grid.

More egregious, FPL mandates that if the power goes out, your solar-power system must power down along with the rest of the grid, robbing potentially needy people of power during major outages.

“Renewable generator systems connected to the grid without batteries are not a standby power source during an FPL outage,” the company’s solar-connection rules state. “The system must shut down when FPL’s grid shuts down in order to prevent dangerous back feed on FPL’s grid. This is required to protect FPL employees who may be working on the grid.”

Astoundingly, state rules also mandate that solar customers include a switch that cleanly disconnects their panels from FPL’s system while keeping the rest of a home’s power lines connected. But during a disaster like the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, FPL customers aren’t allowed to simply flip that switch and keep their panels going. (But FPL is, however, allowed to disconnect your panels from the grid without warning you. The company can even put a padlock on it.)

The law winds up forcing residents to remain reliant on the state’s private power companies. For now, solar-panel owners can still get something out of the law, in that the “net-metering” provision lets you sell excess power back to the company. The provision also lets power companies charge a $400 or $1,000 application fee for consumers who want to install systems more powerful than 10 kilowatts.

But if power companies had their way, the net-metering law would vanish tomorrow. Both FPL and its trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, have spent millions trying to kill that net-metering law and instead win the right to charge you for installing your own solar-panel system. In 2016, FPL spent more than $8 million on Amendment 1, a ballot initiative that industry insiders admitted was written to trick customers into giving up their rights to solar power. The law’s language would have paved the way for Florida to kill net-metering rules.

This past April, the Energy and Policy Institute caught an FPL lobbyist straight-up drafting anti-solar laws for Fort Myers state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who also took a $15,000 campaign contribution from FPL this year.

Thanks to power-company influence, one of America’s sunniest states lags far behind the rest of the nation when it comes to solar adoption.

Does this sound like an industry looking out for the best interests of its customers? Does it sound like the behavior of an industry where heavy regulation has successfully ensured that corporate interests are aligned with the general public?

No it doesn’t, and it makes me wonder how common this sort of behavior is across the country. I encourage readers to share knowledge of their own local utilities in the comment section.

  • Jimmy

    I’m a licensed electrician.
    Turn off your main breaker this will stop any back feed into the hydro suppliers grid. Have a 120/240v innverter back feed into your house panel protected by a breaker. You will have to manage ur usage or u will drain ur batteries. Depending on the size if solar panels and batteries storage u can run a fridge and some lights mabey a small ac unit for a hour or two. Generators are better at keeping a high load running. Fuck the hydro suppliers they are like lawyers and politicans. Useless when we there is an emergency.

    • Henry Cornil

      Wow! Sounds like the U.S.A. has become the odd side of the Atlantic…

      • Beef McWin

        Welcome to America Henry. It is a very big place, and the backwater knuckleheads from Florida do not represent the rest of us anymore than the turds from your home represent you.
        Odd indeed.
        Corrupt is actually more to the point.

  • mary

    These laws are all about money the goverments are making from our electric bills ,they thought people would be running heaters and humidifiers to dry and heat there home making millions from the peoples misery.Our goverments are scumbag s we have to get them out of power pardon the pun

  • John Martin

    Back feed to the grid is deadly to line workers. I don’t think they can stop you from powering with the solar panel, but it must disconnect from the grid if the grid goes down. That automatic switch is expensive, but critically necessary. Many installers don’t even understand the nuances, thus they are discouraging people from trying to power their homes with solar when the grid is down.

    If the solar panel is hard connected to the panel, it must shut down for safety reasons.

  • pusbag

    I’d use panels anyways. They have no rights over my use of solar panels in my own home and curtlage. I also have a right to bare arms against all threats including my government. Remember ruby ridge

  • GordonHowell

    This is such an absolutely stupid article. Don’t get sucked into it.

    Grid-dependent inverters ONLY WORK when the grid is live. It is not about “using solar when the grid is down”, it is that the inverters don’t operate, regardless of what the homeowners want. The homeowners can go and “turn on” their PV system all they want, but it won’t operate because it is only designed to operate when the grid is available — for reasons of shock hazard, but also because the voltage it will be supplying in to the grid will be extremely low because the grid’s load that is connected to the inverter is so huge.

    So absolutely nothing about this article makes any sense — **IF** you know how inverters work. If you don’t know how inverters work then this article does a fine job indeed of making people p’d off — for no good reason.

  • GordonHowell

    It is important to read what the regulations DO say and what they DON’T say. They do NOT say “no operation during outage”, they say “no energisation of the grid during an outage”. You can run a grid-connected solar PV system with a battery bank no problem during an outage, because the inverter disconnects from the grid, runs on the battery bank and energises a separate essential-loads panelboard.

    If you have a grid-connected PV system without a battery bank, then the inverter runs at around 400 VDC and is a solar-powered inverter.

    If you have a grid-connected PV system with a battery bank then the inverter runs at 48 VDC and is a battery-powered inverter. This inverter feeds two panelboards, one that is connected to the grid and one that is not, and which runs essential loads. When there is an electrical outage then the inverter shuts down the grid-connected panelboard, for safety reasons, and continues to run the essential loads panelboard. No problem.

  • GordonHowell

    a) ALL energy systems need an energy storage means in order to operate reliably. A standard PV system relies on the grid for its energy storage. When the grid is down so there is no energy storage, so how is the PV system going to meet the demands of the house when they are in excess of the PV system’s generation (such as at night) and what is the PV system going to do with its own excess during a sunny day?

    b) There are a pile of additional technical reasons why PV systems cannot physically operate when the grid is down ,,, unless the PV system also has battery storage. Then it is no big deal. The PV system will then operate independently of the grid, with no issues whatsoever.

  • JEAN LEFTWICK

    So much for the land of the free, so USA electricity companies own THE SUN. What a bloody disgrace.