South Miami is officially the first city in Florida to mandate new solar panels on all new homes.
The South Miami city commission voted 4-1 to approve the legislation late Thursday evening, which also applies to existing properties whose owners increase the square footage of a home by 75 percent or more.
The law passed after the commission was required to hold a third public hearing because of revisions made to the measure between the first and second reading of the ordinance. However, the votes in favor of the legislation were never in doubt as Mayor Phillip Stoddard, Vice-Mayor Bob Welsh and commissioners Gabriel Edmund and Walter Harris have steadfastly supported the measure since it was initially contemplated.
Yet, in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s vote there was vehement opposition to the renewable energy law by representatives of builders groups and property owners who criticized South Miami elected officials for forcing residents and developers to install solar panels. This time around, there were less critics voicing their concerns.
Truly Burton, executive vice-president for the Builders Association of South Florida, said South Miami’s solar panel law appeared to be an “end-around” to the Florida building code. She also suggested that the city commission would be better served offering property owners incentives to install solar panels rather than mandating they do. “Take baby steps,” she said.
Other critics claimed the cost of installing solar panels on new and renovated homes would make it harder to develop affordable housing in South Miami.
South Miami began contemplating its solar panel law about a year ago when Stoddard responded to a letter sent to dozens of South Florida mayors by a young climate change activist named Delaney Reynolds challenging them to create legislation for solar powered homes. In a statement prior to last night’s city commission meeting, Reynolds said Stoddard responded to her request and that he would support her idea.
Reynolds worked with Stoddard to research and write the language for the city’s solar requirements, which she said would only impact a few homes. “Make no mistake, this bold and smart move by city leaders in South Miami is very, very important – and certainly ‘moves the needle’ in the right direction,” Reynolds said. “Sadly, Florida ranks 14th in the amount of energy we produce from solar power, but the good news is, we rank third in our potential to generate power from the sun.”
In addition to South Miami, only San Francisco and two other California cities mandate solar panels on new homes.