Despite being known as the "Sunshine State," Florida lags behind others parts of the country when it comes to generating electricity through solar power. Florida is the third largest state by population in the U.S., but when it comes to harnessing the power of the sun, it's out-shined by states like California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
The Solar Energy Industry Association notes Florida generated about 400 megawatts of solar energy through 2016, and saw more than 8,200 jobs tied to the solar industry. That compares to California's more than 18,000 megawatts—nearly enough to power New York City for an entire year—and its more than 100,000 solar-industry jobs.
But as the effectiveness of solar cells improves and the costs for solar electricity fall, Florida residents and even utilities are increasingly tapping the power of the sun. Florida Power and Light has recently completed three new solar energy centers in South Florida, including DoSoto, Manatee, and Charlotte County. FPL is planning eight new solar power plants online by 2018. In all, those solar power plants are brining more than 350 megawatts of solar power to homes and businesses in the state.
The SEIA notes, over the next five years, Florida will bring on more than 2,300 megawatts of new solar energy.
Solar contractors in South Florida are also growing, installing more solar-powered water heaters and electricity-generating rooftop solar panels than ever before.
Thursday at 1 p.m. on Gulf Coast Live, longtime solar industry pioneer Neville Williams, author of 2016's Sun Power, explains how the solar industry has matured locally, nationally, and globally, and what technology will further push solar power into the mainstream.
FPL spokesperson Alys Daly also joins the show to explain the utility's solar expansion to nearly a dozen current solar power plants, and its future plans for South Florida plants.
And Jason Szumlanski, the chief consultant and project manager for west coast operations for Urban Solar, discusses the brisk business of installing solar energy installations.
This segment of Gulf Coast Live answered a question submitted to Curious Gulf Coast by Stuart Jeff Beller of Moore Haven, FL. Do you have a question about Southwest Florida or its people that you'd like WGCU to check out? Click here to pose the question to WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project.