Photo: Daniel A. Varela / Miami Herald
South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard installed solar panels on his home before proposing the ordinance.
Required solar panels in South Miami
South Miami is the only Florida municipality to require rooftop panels.
In 2017, South Miami became the first municipality in Florida and the first in the U.S. outside California to require solar panels on new houses. The ordinance applies to the dozen or so new single-family houses built in the city each year, as well as a few townhomes. It also applies to major home renovations.
South Miami encompasses only about 2.3 square miles, and it’s mostly built out. Mayor Philip K. Stoddard, who championed the measure, acknowledges that the direct environmental impact of the city’s ordinance will be small. But, says the Florida International University biological sciences professor, it was a measure “within my reach.”
Stoddard, who has been mayor for 9½ years and whose term will end in 2020, began using a rooftop solar array at his own home before proposing the ordinance. It includes a battery system that allows him to draw on solar power during rainy days and full power outages. He took his whole property off the grid for a full week last June and says his solar power and batteries provided for the household’s electric needs; his only concession was to charge his electric car only during sunny days.
Stoddard’s most recent energy bill from FP&L averaged 33 cents a day, he says. “There’s a higher return on capital on my solar array than there is on my house and a lot less maintenance,” Stoddard says. He also points out that during power outages solar power with battery backup is quieter, gives off no odor and has fewer moving parts to maintain than a generator.
The South Miami ordinance doesn’t include commercial structures “because the complexity of the roof is always a little bit uncertain,” Stoddard says. “I think it’s worth doing, but what I’m really hoping is that the economics begins to drive it.” At least one approved commercial redevelopment project in the city, the 9.7-acre Shops at Sunset Place, plans to include rooftop solar panels. Sunset Place owners Federal Realty Investment Trust, Grass River Proper and Comras Co. worked with Stoddard to add sustainable elements to the redevelopment proposal after the city rejected an earlier proposal.
Read more in Florida Trend's September issue.
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