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SolarCity, largest U.S. solar panel installer, enters Florida after Amendment 1 defeat

Workers in Denver install a rooftop system for SolarCity, the largest U.S. solar panel installer. The company plans to open an operations center near Orlando and may operate as many as 20 Florida warehouse locations.  
Workers in Denver install a rooftop system for SolarCity, the largest U.S. solar panel installer. The company plans to open an operations center near Orlando and may operate as many as 20 Florida warehouse locations. 
Published Dec. 6, 2016

SolarCity, the largest U.S. solar panel installer, is moving into Florida's residential market — emboldened by Florida voters' rejection last month of a utility-backed ballot measure that critics said would make going solar more expensive.

Lyndon Rive, the company's CEO, said the defeat of the pro-utility Amendment 1 by state voters strengthened the company's resolve to move into the state.

"It reinforces to any policymaker or regulator that when you're making the rules, consider that the voters voted for competition and energy choice," Rive said.

California-based SolarCity is a subsidiary of Palo Alto electric car maker Tesla Motors. The solar company said it will open an operations center in the Orlando area and plans to expand into other areas of Florida. It could employ as many as 300 in the state and operate as many as 20 warehouse locations depending on demand.

"The big takeaway from the defeat of Amendment 1 is a resounding 'yes' for more solar power in Florida, especially consumer-generated solar power. But the state is still a long way from the widespread production of electricity from solar facilities, and some would say that was why Amendment 1 failed," Floyd R. Self and Jeffrey Bartel, partners in Florida's Berger Singerman law firm, wrote in a commentary published Friday.

Had Amendment 1 passed, the measure backed by millions of dollars from Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and other large Florida utilities would have opened the door to new laws that could have hindered the growth of residential solar power.

Amendment 1 was defeated after it was reported in October that Florida's big utilities purposely deceived voters to back an amendment that appeared to encourage solar power in the state. In fact, the constitutional amendment would suppress the market for customer-owned, rooftop solar in Florida. The deception was confirmed in the release of an audiotape of the remarks by the policy director of a think tank hired by Florida's largest electric utilities.

SolarCity has installed systems for more than 300,000 customers in 27 states, including Florida.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.