Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New hope for solar in Florida

Sometimes good ideas survive even when shortsighted leaders ignore them. News that a small cadre of solar power firms is figuring out ways to gain a foothold in Florida's energy market despite the political hostility is good for consumers, the environment and the state's future. It also should provide additional evidence for more thoughtful lawmakers to persuade Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders to focus on the future of renewable energy.

For years, Tallahassee leaders have said they see no reason to encourage solar here and made up all sorts of excuses, from cloud cover to lower-than-average energy rates. They ignored the long-term environmental benefits of a renewable energy source that doesn't cause pollution and refused to consider how the economics could change with regulatory encouragement. The result: Despite being one of the sunniest places in the country — second only to parts of the Southwest and West — Florida now lags behind less sunny states when it comes to solar power collection. New Jersey, which enjoys 33 percent less sun exposure each day, has six times the solar capacity of Florida's mere 150 megawatts. California produces the most, 2,559 megawatts.

Now some solar firms are finding a way around Florida's restrictive energy policy, written in the last century when the technology for energy creation and transmission required enormous infrastructure investments. The law prohibits anyone but state-sanctioned monopolies such as Duke Energy and Tampa Electric from selling power directly to consumers, meaning any solar-power producer has to sell its power to the monopolies at the cheaper wholesale rate. That makes it harder to recoup an investment, much less make a profit.

That law doesn't apply to individual property owners. And as the Tampa Bay Times' Ivan Penn recently reported, that leaves an opening for a new financing model where a solar firm leases solar equipment to individuals to produce power for their homes at a lower cost than paying a monopoly for the same power. Those economics are expected to only improve as innovation drives down solar equipment costs at the same time that traditional power generation technologies grow more costly due to increasing fossil fuel or pollution costs. Solar will not solve all the state's energy needs, but it could go a long way toward the state's energy independence.

Yet in Tallahassee, many state leaders are stuck in the past, claiming the future lies with nuclear — even after Duke Energy's botched repair job in Crystal River and its folly in Levy County that will rob customers of an estimated $3.2 billion — or clean coal. Others, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, are focused on expanding natural gas pipelines, which means once again importing energy. Meanwhile, the sun is rising and setting each day in the Sunshine State and far too little is being done to harness it.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18