First Florida City Signs Solar Ordinance

Miami Metro Area

The City of South Miami is the latest city to sign onto a new trend encouraging solar across the country: solar mandates. In July, the South Miami City Commission in a 4-1 vote approved a law requiring solar to be installed on all new homes. Thus South Miami became the first city in Florida with such a requirement, seeking to cost-effectively incorporate solar in new construction. Six California cities including Santa Monica and San Francisco have passed such mandates.

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a proponent of the ordinance, stated that, “Solar reduces the cost of home ownership, it makes houses sell faster, it returns more to a builder, it makes local jobs, and most importantly, it reduces carbon emissions today to help our children and grandchildren have a better future tomorrow.” A university professor, he notes that, “We’re down in South Florida where climate change and sea level rise are existential threats, so we’re looking for every opportunity to promote renewable energy… We have a pledge for carbon neutrality. We support the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Stoddard said he expects only a few new homes and other buildings to be built in South Miami this year because the city of about 11,000 is surrounded on all sides by dense urban development and has very little space for new construction. Under the rules, new residential construction would require 175 square feet of photovoltaics to be installed per 1,000 square feet of sunlit roof area, or one array with 2.75 kilowatt capacity per 1,000 square feet of living space, whichever is less. Houses built under existing trees may be exempt. Those opposed to the law generally like solar, but favored incentives instead of the mandate.

The new construction requirement complements the City’s push for existing homeowners to put solar on their roofs. In 2015, South Miami completed a competitive bid process for solar installations. The objective was to get the best possible and fixed pricing from one single solar installer. The City received responses from two contractors and then negotiated, volume and discounted pricing for solar panel installation on all types of residential and commercial roofs.