Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

February 2013 Conservation Notes

Solar Power Developments

Solar power is growing rapidly in many places. Some examples:


Greece, despite its financial crisis is blossoming with solar systems based on Feed In Tariff (FIT) subsidies adopted in 2006. Greece ranks third among all nations with 0.142 kilowatts (KW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) per capita, trailing only Germany and Italy.


Solar power in Greece doesn’t surprise me. Around 20 years ago, Catherine and I enjoyed a fine vacation in Greece. We were impressed by solar hot water panels on the rooftops of nearly all large Grecian residential buildings. In addition, some hillsides had large wind turbine formations. At that time, curbing manmade global warming was already my top environmental issue.


Sunny Chile with its water supply threatened by shrinking mountaintop glaciers approved 3.1 gigawatts (GW) capacity of solar PV projects in 2012. Chile expects total capacity approvals to continue rising.


Japan, after Fukushima adopted an FIT program for renewables in July, 2012. The response was huge. For solar PV, Japan pays the equivalent of around US 50 cents per kWh and expected PV installations totaling 2GW in 2012. Recent reports suggest Japan will reduce subsidies this year.


France, highly dependent on nuclear power has suffered financially as nuclear plants shut down because essential cooling water was too warm or unavailable. France paid about 10 times its electric rate to import electricity during heat waves in 2003, 2006 and 2009. Rising global temperatures motivated France to adopt an FIT program paying about 50 cents per kWh for solar PV. France expects to gradually reduce its solar PV subsidies.


Cloudy Germany the FIT pioneer, installed 7.6 GW of solar last year despite cutting subsidies to reduce consumer costs.


The US keeps failing to lead internationally in restraining obvious climate change chaos, but US solar power use is perking up. In 2012, despite mistakes and frustrations with project starts and stops, US industry installed about 3.2 GW of solar PV capacity. That exceeded the total of all solar PV capacity previously installed nationally.


Our Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) continues to have its FIT solar PV program sold out well in advance, despite small reductions in subsidy payments. Gainesville has become one of the world’s leading cities in kWh of solar PV per capita.


FIT programs are working extremely well in a few US locations and in Canada’s Ontario Province. The obvious question is: Why not a national US FIT system?


There are several reasons our Congress and the President ignore the FIT route to expanding renewables installations, most of them the same reasons for US hindrance of international actions to restrain menacing climate change. In addition to the powerful lobbying and political donations by fossil fuel interests, most US public utilities strongly oppose an FIT program because it supports distributed electricity production on homes and businesses where the power is used. Investor-owned public utilities generally view this as weakening their legal territorial monopolies. They often support renewables by building large solar power projects which they own and control.


Meanwhile, melting is accelerating in both polar regions and sea level is rising faster. Florida has some 6,000 miles of tidal waterfront property along lagoons, canals, inland waterways and tidal streams, much of it heavily developed and only a few feet above the water. A three or four foot sea level rise, well below maximum predictions for this century, boosting the storm surge from our typical nor’easters or hurricanes could wreak unimaginable havoc on coastal Florida, where 75 percent of Floridians live and work. It wouldn’t take a superstorm to cause irreparable destruction.


As arctic temperatures rise, there is an increasing risk of methane and carbon dioxide releases from arctic sea beds and lands, which could make Greenland ice cap melting irreversible.


I hope government wakes up in time to protect Florida from losing its coastal economy and ecology. Although our Governor and Legislature reject the climate change issue, there are some solar bright spots in our Sunshine State.


Lee Bidgood, Jr.

Gainesville, Florida