Could this be Miami one day?
Could this be Miami one day?
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Study Shows South Florida Gained Hundreds of Solar Jobs Last Year

The folks who support fracking or nuclear energy need to distract people, so they call their dirty, carbon-emitting industries "job creators" and accuse green-energy advocates of being "job killers."

But that's all bunk. Study after study has recently shown that solar energy is getting cheap. Scores of workers have been hired to make the panels. According to a study released this week by the nonprofit Solar Foundation, solar jobs in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach metropolitan area jumped 31 percent last year — a huge rise.

To top it off, thousands of people already work in solar jobs down here. As of 2015, 2,646 workers installed or maintained panels. By the end of 2016, that number had jumped by 811, to 3,457.

In response, the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the oldest environmental groups in the nation, said the data is promising but there's still room for improvement.

“Solar jobs are on the rise, and clean energy is putting people to work in cities across our state," Frank Jackalone, the chapter's president, said in a news release. "We can and must go further... Now is the time for action and for the mayors of Florida cities to stand on the side of more jobs by supporting the goal of 100 percent clean energy."

According to the Solar Foundation's Interactive Solar Census, Palm Beach County still has the most solar jobs in the state: 1,595. Miami-Dade ranks second, followed by Broward.

Nationally, the solar industry added 51,000 jobs in 2016, bringing the sector to a total of 260,077. Florida added 1,700 jobs and now has 8,260. Of the total, 3,933 are installation-related, 1,021 are in manufacturing, 945 are in sales, and 1,936 are in the "project development" sector.

But, of course, pretty much every green-energy advocate maintains that Florida still isn't doing nearly enough to build on its solar potential. According to the Solar Industries Association, the Sunshine State ranks third in terms of solar-industry potential but 12th in actual installed capacity.

Earlier this year, South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard told New Times that if half of Miami-Dade's households converted to solar energy, the panels could cover half the county's energy needs — and that includes big-ticket energy consumers such as hotels and cruise ships.

But the rate of new solar signups statewide remains slow, thanks in no small part to the state's four major private electricity utilities, which have persuaded state lawmakers to rig Florida law to protect the companies' bottom lines. According to the Guardian, which on Monday criticized the state for its corporate-controlled solar policies, any home in Florida that generates solar power is considered a "utility" and must be able to provide power 24 hours per day. And, unlike almost all other states, it's illegal here for panel owners to sell power back to their local electric grids or to other consumers.

Florida Power & Light, Miami's electricity monopoly, insists it's a pro-solar company and has announced plans to build eight solar plants by 2018. But FPL also blew millions of dollars on last year's Amendment 1, a corporate-funded constitutional amendment that energy executives openly admitted was designed to trick customers into giving up their rights to personal solar panels.

“Political beliefs have held solar back in Florida, and the utilities like the way things currently are,” Alissa Schafer, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's communications and policy manager, told the Guardian.

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