Solar amendment has widespread support — but not all on board

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2016, 7:27 AM EDT

As voters head to the polls Aug. 30 to cast their votes in the primary election, they'll be tasked with voting for — or against — an initiative revolving around solar energy.

  • Amendment 4 is on the Aug. 30 Florida primary ballot
  • Amendment would give tax breaks to businesses for solar equipment
  • Opponents think amendment would distort free market

Amendment 4, the lone amendment on the ballot, is a proposed exemption of property taxes on solar equipment for businesses. Although a tax exemption for homeowners is already in place, proponents said a "yes" vote could propel solar growth in the Sunshine State, spurring more jobs and competition.

“[It could] potentially save a lot of money for small and mid-size businesses, who, in turn, can pass that on in a competitive environment to their customers," said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Tallahassee-based Florida Taxwatch.

“(It's) saving green to do more green. It’s a great thing to do in the Sunshine State, and I think it has very substantial support.”

Amendment 4 does have widespread pledged support, from energy organizations to environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

But not everyone is on board with the amendment.

Opponents claim a "yes" vote would distort the free market. The Orlando Utlities Commission has a neutral stance on the amendment, while the Florida Natural Gas Association would not comment.

“To me, it matters a lot, because it means we would not have to be mining coal," said Mary Dipboye with FL Sun Advisory Board. "I love the idea that we could create a clean energy future. That we could find a way to generate the electricity that we need."

Last October, Dipboye and her husband installed 23 solar panels on their Winter Park home. The addition was costly, running upwards of $13,000, but Dipboye said it was worthwhile: The solar panels slashed their monthly energy bills from about $160 to $40, and Dipboye said she is passionate about helping the environment.

“I love each morning getting up and seeing how much electricity we produced the day before," she said, staring at their daily energy log on her laptop. “It’s just fun to see your systems working well, and we’re saving money.”

She also said that being part of a co-op — which Orange County government is now backing — helps customers negotiate better prices, and supporting the amendment on the ballot moves the sunshine state in the right direction.

“What it really does is it kind of kick-starts the movement and makes it a lot less intimidating for people," Dipboye said.

Next week, Dipboye said there are six co-op information sessions throughout Central Florida. For more information, visit www.FLsun.org.