The path to expanding solar energy in Florida has been clouded. Competing and confusing initiatives have muddied recent efforts to increase the use of renewable energy in the Sunshine State and make it more affordable for consumers. But on the Aug. 30 primary ballot, Amendment 4 is a clear-cut win for solar.
The amendment would exempt the value of rooftop solar panels and other renewable energy equipment from commercial property taxes. Solar panels are already exempt from residential property taxes, meaning homeowners who install solar panels don't see higher taxes as a result. The amendment extends that tax break to commercial property, creating an incentive for businesses to invest in solar. Amendment 4 also exempts the equipment itself from the tangible personal property tax. That's the tax that businesses pay on things like machinery, technology and office equipment.
Without the exemption, solar advocates argue, savings on power bills could be erased by higher taxes. A tax benefit also should encourage more use of solar, which accounts for less than 1 percent of power generation in Florida.
It's important to distinguish this amendment from the misleading Amendment 1 on the November ballot. That measure, backed by the state's electric utilities, is being marketed as pro-solar but actually would punish consumers for generating their own power.
Amendment 4 is good for Florida. It was put on the ballot by the Legislature, which passed it unanimously. It quite literally has no opposition. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the tax exemptions would remain in effect for 20 years.
On Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 ballot, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting yes.