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Solar panels: Sunny states not taking advantage of clean energy

Solar panels are not allowed in certain states.
Solar panels are not allowed in certain states.
Photo by Duane Prokop

Those looking for a cleaner source of energy have hit a wall in places where sunlight is abundant. The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday, Aug. 9, that many Southern states have rules restricting the use of solar panels for homeowners.

According to Solar Power Rocks, the average home uses around 958 kilowatts a month. Although there are many factors that play into how much energy you can obtain from solar panels, a typical panel can produce up to 200 watts of power.

Aside from tax breaks and other government incentives, there are many perks to having solar energy in your home including: saving on your electricity bill, increasing your property value and reducing your carbon footprint, to name a few.

Southern states are much further behind when it comes to solar power. Only hundreds of solar power panels can be found in South Carolina and Virginia (combined) while states such as California have about 234,600, according to Solar Energy Industries Assn.

Businesses in the solar industry typically have homeowners sign a lease agreement with solar panel installation companies. This agreement accounts for the cost of the panel, and any excess power generated by the panels can be sold back. States where solar energy has been successful pay residents irresistible rates for their excess energy.

These type of business models are, for the most part, illegal in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and other Southern states. Because of the restrictions on solar power, companies such as SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc. do not do business in these regions.

Although every state has its own regulations on why these panels are prohibited, the LA Times states that, “one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business.” Need an example? A few years ago, when Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va installed solar panels, they were threatened with legal action by their local energy company. The energy company said they were the only ones allowed to sell energy in the area. The schools eventually had to change their agreement with the solar company they worked with and did not receive the incentives for their efforts.

Utility companies, on the other hand, have said that these policies that are in place are not about their business area. These companies are also covering the cost of electricity grids which include power lines, switches and computer networks.

Perhaps there just isn’t enough incentive for Southerners to jump on the solar bandwagon. Currently many in these states benefit from lower electric bills, but are not offered solar incentives. Some states go further than just banning these companies they charge taxes and fees on solar equipment. Those who want solar panels could simply pay on their own which could get costly. Although some energy companies state that they are trying to move towards solar energy many solar advocates say the efforts are not enough.