Solar Power

St. Petersburg Wants to Force You To Put Solar Panels On Your House

There are no downsides, say proponents.

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Solar Panels on a Home
Pujanak/Wikimedia Commons

The City Council of St. Petersburg, Florida has an idea as bright as the sun for harnessing its energy: force residents to install solar panels.

Council members are positively radiating with the notion of requiring all new homes and all major roof renovations on existing homes to include solar arrays. "It creates jobs, it lowers pollution," councilman Kevin Nurse says. "There is no downside."

Unless you consider being forced to spend an extra $10,500 to $14,700 on your home a downside, according to an estimate for a typical home solar installation in the 5,000 to 7,000 kilowatt range by St. Petersburg-based Solar Energy Management. Homes smaller than 1,100 square feet are exempted from the law.

As written, the ordinance would put entire cost of that on the homeowner.

"There is no way they should be telling me I have to do that if I live in St. Pete," said one St. Petersburg man to local CBS affiliate 10 News.

Jennifer Motsinger of the Tampa Bay Builders Association saying that "the mandate on putting in solar panels is only going to cost homeowners of St. Pete a lot more money." Instead of more solar panels on local roofs of, she says, "you're more likely to see homeowners not purchasing new roofs, and not keeping up with the maintenance of their homes."

In a phone interview with Reason, Nurse says he would like to see existing homes exempted from the solar panel mandate, but he still thinks the requirement makes sense for new homes.

"You can create a system that provides local jobs, reduces fossil fuel use and pollution, and reduces the cost of owning a home," Nurse tells Reason. Energy savings from solar generation would be more than enough to cover the increased cost of a mortgage for a newly built home.

Motsinger, however, is skeptical that a top-down solar panel mandate is a win for energy efficiency. Builders, she says, already provide a range of energy-saving options—from better insulation to low energy windows—and what method works best will depend on the individual building.

"Because each individual structure can be built differently," she says, "you can't apply solar panels universally or any other methods of energy efficiency for that matter."

That was pretty much the reaction when South Miami became the first (and so far only) Florida city to require solar panel installation. As far as I can tell, only South Miami and, predictably, San Francisco require that the panels be installed. A number of other cities around the country require new homes to be "solar ready", meaning they include equipment capable of having panels installed.

Eric Montes of the Latin Builders Association wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed critical of the South Miami law, "if anyone who does not want to have solar panels, then they are not welcome to live in South Miami. This, I would argue, runs counter to our individual freedoms."

Homeowners and developers who want solar panels can install them. Those who a cheaper home and a roof uncluttered with the latest crony capitalist contraptions should have that choice.

NEXT: Henry Manne, George Mason's law school and 'Democracy in Chains': A response to Farrell and Teles

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  1. Fuck off, slavers

    1. If something is a good idea, then making it mandatory for everyone is the very definition of a Great Idea!

  2. No way will the Supreme Court allow the government to compel people to purchase something they don’t want.

    1. Oh, don’t worry, it’s a tax, not a requirement…or something similar.

    1. Fucking ignoramus.

  3. It’s amazing that homeowners are too stupid to invest in something that will save them money.

    And if that local pol thinks more jobs are a plus, let her go out and get one.

    1. I’m good with the more jobs part, not with the government force part.

      1. If the enactment “be fairly debatable, the legislative judgment must be allowed to control.”

        Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 388 (1926).

        Given that there is no debate about climate change, the horrors of continued fossil fuel use, and the benefits of solar power, the matter is beyond being “fairly debatable”. Accordingly, the judgment of St. Pete’s City Council must be allowed to control.

      2. I used to be good with the jobs part too, until I started reading the economist Don Boudreaux. Jobs are a cost, not a benefit. I’d fail if I tried to explain it. I’d encourage you to read him on the subject (cafehayek.com).

        1. Here’s one way to explain it: Labor is a resource, just like materials. Does anyone try to maximize the amount of material required to make a product? Does Foxconn ever tell Apple that the next generation of phones will be much better because they’ll take twice as much labor and material to build? Another way: If you’re building a house would you choose the method that requires more labor, other things equal?

      3. I’m not. Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.

      4. Unicorn Abattoir|8.31.17 @ 5:30PM|#
        “I’m good with the more jobs part, not with the government force part.”

        Digging the hole in the ground with teaspoons?

        1. Don’t give them ideas. Backhoes will be outlawed.

    2. And put firefighters in danger.

  4. ” “There is no downside.”

    Unless you consider being forced to spend an extra $10,500 to $14,700 on your home a downside,”

    Phttt, you got to keep the riff raff out some how. ….

    1. I live in the Bay Area and I love all the rich pretty leftists that live in Los Altos… where the minimum lot size is one acre.

      They love the poor so much they keep all of them out.

      And I wonder how many refugees they are welcoming with open arms to their city?

    2. I don’t think this councilman is familiar with the concept of opportunity cost.

      1. I don’t think this councilman is familiar with the concept of freedom from government tyranny.

        1. Sure, he is.

          There have been too many conservatives who, through the years, have not only grudgingly accepted, but have “grown” to zealously embrace and defend progressivism, particularly one of its pillars, the administrative state.

          See the case I cite above, Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. Thank you Justice Sutherland.

    3. We had a solar panel fatality in Austin back about 1980. Some rube was cleaning out leaves stuck behind a solar panel, and hornets chased him off the edge of the roof. Any mention of that as a safety concern was promptly and solemnly censored.

  5. Energy savings from solar generation would be more than enough to cover the increased cost of a mortgage for a newly built home.

    Translation – Just another way of keeping “those people” from buying homes here. Seriously, does she not realize that increasing the cost of a mortgage just might price some people out of the market??

    1. If the energy savings more than covered the increased mortgage, why wouldn’t people just do it on their own? That’s how you know politicians are full of shit.

    2. Price is what repairing the roof damage caused by a bunch of econazis with electric drills is all about… that and the water damage.

  6. Speaking of local pols, years ago in st Augustine, the pols were debating a new higher bridge so that more boats could get under it. One city councilwoman asked why the channel couldn’t be dredged deeper.

    1. Knowing nothing about dredging operations, that seems like a reasonable question. Am I missing something?

      1. Never mind, got it. Depth of the channel doesn’t affect the draft of the boats.

        1. Submarines hardest hit.

        2. Not the draft, the height of the boat – which is what you’re concerned with when dealing with a bridge.

          1. The draft, in regards to dredging. I just completely missed the point of Lib’s post (dredging doesn’t make the boat ride lower in the water)..

            1. But could it make the water ride lower in the riverbed?

  7. “a typical home solar installation in the 5,000 to 7,000 kilowatt range”

    That’s 5 to 7 megawatts. Unless you’re a supervillain whose secret volcano lair needs a lot of defending with high-energy lasers, I don’t think that’s the right number. I think someone accidentally included 3 extra zeros or a superfluous “kilo”.

    1. I thought the pot grow lights took a LOT of electricity – – – –

      1. It depends. For a modest personal supply of 8 oz a month, three 400 watt lights are all you need. Commercial grows can run hundreds of lights at 1000 watts each.

        1. singlestack, you belie your name with your description of modest.

          If that is modest, you alone, could sustain a Wendy’s franchise.

          1. By the time you make your edibles, give away some to bros, wife and side girls, that amount doesn’t last as long as you might think.

            1. singlestack, I am lucky. Everyone I share with lives 350 miles away. Well, except my wex-wife , but 1/4 oz every couple months buys a lot of goodwill.

    2. Solar panels are general measured by how much energy they produce over the course of a year, not their instantaneous output.

      1. No.

    3. “That’s 5 to 7 megawatts. Unless you’re a supervillain whose secret volcano lair needs a lot of defending with high-energy lasers, I don’t think that’s the right number. I think someone accidentally included 3 extra zeros or a superfluous “kilo”.”

      I can be corrected, but memory says 100W/sq. m.
      NEW and on a sunny day, 90* to solar position.

  8. How is this not a taking?

    1. It’s receiving. Whether you like it or not.

      1. So that’s what they call “catching” in modern legalese?

  9. I am shocked, shocked, that once the supreme court ruled the government can force people to buy specific stuff, that the slope would get slippery in a hurry.
    Next up; everybody has to buy an electric car to plug into their solar roof, to justify the cost of the solar roof.

    Oh, yeah. And this is all racist.

    1. The “slippery slope” warning is for pussies.

      1. A slippery slope on a roof can be quite dangerous.

  10. Typical lefties move from New York or wherever and use government force to make you do what they want you to do or buy.

  11. Energy savings from solar generation would be more than enough to cover the increased cost of a mortgage for a newly built home.

    I’m sure it will – for about the first 7 years. But you’ve got a 30 year note on that house and solar installations simply don’t pay for themselves once you start counting maintenance and repair and replacement. It’s the usual government short-sightedness, they only count capital costs and ignore the M&O because that’s somewhere off in the future and who knows if they’ll even still be in office at that point?

    1. I was curious about this. I didn’t think the maintenance was very expensive. But I did wonder about competitive performance over periods of time. With technology advancing at the pace it is. I read they were working on panels that convert full light spectrum into electricity instead of the very narrow frequency we have now, that along with other advancements in materials and production efficiency gains will lead panels that produce twice the power with a lower price (similar to other consumer electronics). My point being that you get locked into a 30 year investment on solar panels. 10 years go by and with the newer technology, you only need half the panels which cost less per panel, but you are still stuck paying for obsolete, inefficient technology for the next 20 years.

      1. I read they were working on panels that convert full light spectrum into electricity instead of the very narrow frequency we have now, that along with other advancements in materials and production efficiency gains will lead panels that produce twice the power with a lower price (similar to other consumer electronics).

        No.

        1. Disagreed.
          “They” are “working on it”, like “they” are “working on a 100MPG fuel injector”.
          Most of use simply discount such bullshit.

        2. Dude it was a big story a week ago. They stack layers that all utilize different wavelengths. The total combined output is more than double. The problem isn’t that it doesn’t work. The problem is it is currently cost prohibitive.

          Wait. Miami et al should just mandate we use this new technology that has made it to production phase so it will be immediately in production phase. Fixed it!

  12. How is this any different from any other “zoning” regulation or building code?

    1. Building codes are supposedly set to achieve a minimum level of safety. Solar power is just for virtue signaling.

  13. Twitter Fail:

    French rag Charlie Hebdo mocks Harvey victims as Neo Nazis

    Charlie Hebdo makes fun of everyone but Muslims. Cowards https://t.co/VUnXuN1ARy

    ? Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) August 31, 2017

  14. You know what else would create jobs and lower pollution?

    Forcing residents to install windmills to grind their flour.
    Forcing residents to install pedal-powered butter churns to churn their butter.
    Forcing residents to install hand-cranked washing and drying laundry machines to do their laundry.
    Forcing residents to buy and maintain a horse and buggy and use them for any trips within the city limits.

    There’s no downside.

    We can call it “Good old St. Petersburg”. As in 18th/19th century old.

    1. You know what else would create jobs and lower pollution?Hitler?

  15. John Roberts the biggest scumbag in the history of Scotus said the government can lie to you and compel you to buy something if they call it a tax, we are screwed. Hopefully the hated and despise Donald Trump (especially by Reason Writers) will get another pick and we can seize back our right to self determination. Until that happens we are just the suckers paying the bills for the idiots enriching their friends by forcing you to buy their products.

  16. Does this mean they’re also going to change the name of the town back to Petrograd?

  17. “It creates jobs, it lowers pollution,” councilman Kevin Nurse says. “There is no downside.”

    Since it’s not his money, there isn’t any downside.

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