Delray Beach is designated “SolSmart Bronze” for Advancing Solar Energy Growth
On October 24th 2017, Delray Beach received a Bronze designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. This designation recognizes our city for taking steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Bronze designation is a signal that Delray Beach is “open for solar business.”
SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. More than 100 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016. See the map at: http://www.gosparc.org/solsmart-designeesThinking about Installing Solar?
In the Sunshine state, approximately 70% of days are sunny or partly sunny. This makes South Florida a great place to install solar thermal or solar photovoltaic arrays and move your household toward 100% renewable energy and increased resiliency.
The City of Delray Beach encourages all residential and commercial property owners to consider a solar installation on their buildings. The City of Delray Beach worked with an US Department of Energy funded SolSmart Advisor to streamline the permit application and approval process for solar installations and earn a Bronze Designation of a "Solar Ready City”. In considering a solar array for your home or business, many factors must be evaluated, including: your current and future energy demands, the capacity of the roof structure, its age and condition, the roof warrant, your planned tenure in the property, the solar technology and mounting system, and cost and financing terms offered. Owners are encouraged to educate themselves, ask questions and make informed decisions. Luckily there are many resources available. An overall primer for consumers can be found on the Solar Energy Industries Association website see: http://www.seia.org/policy/consumer-protection/solar-customer-resource-portal
Below is some summary information and links to get you started.
How can I learn more about installing a solar energy system?
There are a dizzying number of resources available on the Internet to learn about solar arrays, but the calculations of the appropriate size and type of equipment for an individual property owner should be done by a qualified solar installation professional. In fact, it is highly recommended that you seek several estimates, thorough research on each company, and actually read the entire contract very carefully before signing any contracts. As a very rough estimate of the size of the photovoltaic array you need, you can use the calculator and explanation provided at: https://understandsolar.com/calculating-kilowatt-hours-solar-panels-produce
As you consider solar installation, become knowledgeable in the consumer protections afforded to customers. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council provides a summary at: http://www.irecusa.org/consumer/bill-of-rights.pdf
Am I allowed to install solar equipment at my home or business?
Florida Statutes forbid any entity—including homeowner associations—from prohibiting the installation of solar or other renewable energy devices on Florida buildings, including the roof. An association may require approval of a system installation, and may establish restrictions for installations. The association may determine where on the roof the collectors may be installed, so long as the collectors face within 45 degrees of due south. However, any restrictions must be reasonable, not arbitrary, and applied in a uniform manner for all association members. The restrictions must not have the effect of impairing the performance, or increasing the cost of a solar system. Any requirement(s) that a system be screened from view by trees, fences, ground mounting racks, or a remote roof location that is hidden from the street, will generally violate the statute.
Prior to purchasing solar equipment, contact the Planning, Zoning and Building Department for additional information and the required permits.
How does solar power my home and reduce my bills?
If the solar system produces more energy than the household uses monthly, the excess energy produced is “banked”, and deducted from the next monthly bill or credited toward a future bill in the same calendar year. If at the end of a calendar year the consumer’s solar array produced surplus electricity in comparison to their usage, the utility, Florida Power and Light, will apply a credit to your January bill based on the “average annual cost of generation.” This rate per watt, sometimes referred to as a “wholesale” rate is lower than the “retail” rate that consumers pay for electricity they purchase from FPL. Thus, the size (in terms of kilowatts) of the solar array a consumer chooses to install should be carefully considered and analyzed based on the home or businesses’ energy consumption patterns. Florida Power and Light’s net metering webpage and the associated links has more detail information. Read Florida’s net metering state statutes at: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0300-0399/0366/Sections/0366.91.html
What is a Solar Cooperative?
One way to address the information gap and have more confidence as you move forward is to do your installation as part of a local Solar Cooperative. Solar cooperatives have been developed regionally by third-party, non-profit organizations that want to help neighbors organize to purchase and install solar equipment in “bulk”. By pulling together numerous households into a “cooperative”, the participants get discounted volume pricing. Moreover, the solar cooperative issues a Request for Proposals and receives bids from multiple solar vendors and installers. Members of the coop then research, vet and select one, or perhaps two companies for the entire group. The cooperative model helps assuage fears of selecting an overpriced or under qualified installer, or having shoddy work done, as the company that wins the contract has been carefully reviewed by solar experts and a board comprised of members of the community.
The League of Women Voters in Palm Beach County has taken the lead in organizing Palm Beach County’s first solar cooperative in conjunction with FL Solar United Neighborhoods (FL SUN), a statewide organizer of solar cooperatives. The cooperative has launched Palm Beach County's first Coop in November of 2017, and residents interested in learning about this opportunity are encouraged to attend one of the six planned information sessions. See https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/florida/go-solar-in-florida/go-solar-in-a-florida-group/palm-beach-county-solar-co-op/ for more information
General Information on solar cooperatives can be found at http://www.flsun.org
What incentives and financing option are there for solar installations?
The cost of installing solar photovoltaic panels is dropping, but even with panels running between $2.40-$3.00 a watt, this investment can be several thousand dollars. There are tax incentives that help reduce the cost. The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is currently a 30 percent federal tax credit claimed against the tax liability of residential (Section 25D) and commercial and utility (Section 48) investors in solar energy property. The Section 25D residential ITC allows the homeowner to apply the credit to his/her personal income taxes. This credit is used when homeowners purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes. In the case of the Section 48 credit, the business that installs, develops and/or finances the project claims the credit.
A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income taxes that a person or company claiming the credit would otherwise pay the federal government. The ITC is based on the amount of investment in solar property. Both the residential and commercial ITC are equal to 30 percent of the basis that is invested in eligible property which have commenced construction through 2019. The ITC then steps down to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent. Additional information is available at: http://www.seia.org/policy/finance-tax/solar-investment-tax-credit
For household that can not purchase the solar installation outright, there is the option of financing solar using the PACE program. The City of Delray Beach currently allows four PACE providers to do business in our city. Each company provides financing for solar and other energy efficiency or wind mitigating improvements to residential and commercial properties. Property owner are advised to research each firm and the terms and conditions they offer prior to selecting one to do business with. Links to each company’s website is provided below.
I am a solar contractor, what should I know?
Solar contractors working in Delray Beach should familiarize themselves with the permitting process, and the industry's business ethics standards. These can be found at:
SEIA Code of Ethics: http://www.seia.org/policy/consumer-protection/code-ethics
SEIA Solar Business Code:http://www.seia.org/policy/consumer-protection/seia-solar-business-code
Delray Beach has four active PACE providers. Qualified contractors may be interested in getting certified as an installer in colloboration with their financing products.
What is the City's Building Permit process for solar installations?
The City of Delray Beach has been working with a SolSmart Advisor funded by the US Department of Energy to streamline the building permit application process for property owners seeking to install solar. Until the outcome of that the work is completed, residents still have to apply for the relevant building permits, (roof, electrical, plumbing) with the city’s building department. You can download the applications from: http://www.mydelraybeach.com/departments/planning_and_zoning/permit_applications_and_forms.php
A list of the items you will need for obtaining a permit for a solar array can be found by clicking this link.