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City becomes first in U.S. with solar feed–in tariffs

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Posted: Friday, February 6, 2009 12:00 am

Gainesville will be the first city in the U.S. to implement a solar feed-in tariff, city commissioners decided in an unanimous vote Thursday.

"What we're doing here today is moving to the new way of doing things," Commissioner Lauren Poe said at Thursday's meeting.

The new feed-in tariff will allow Gainesville Regional Utilities to purchase 100 percent of the energy generated in the city via solar panels, commercial and residential alike.

The tariff is expected to be in place by March 1.

This energy will be produced at $0.32 per kilowatt-hour and sold back to the private citizen or business for $0.12 per kilowatt-hour.

This full compensation provides a greater incentive for long-term investment in renewable energy.

Previously, those with solar panels were only partially reimbursed for the energy produced.

Gainesville's feed-in tariff is modeled after such tariffs already in place in Europe.

Because it is the first time such a program has been created in the U.S., Gainesville's feed-in tariff has received both national and international attention.

The tariff was a major topic of discussion Tuesday at the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy conference in Tallahassee.

In a display of international support, delegates from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association attended the conference in Tallahassee and visited Gainesville.

The delegates attended a workshop with GRU Thursday morning, said Robert Hunzinger, GRU general manager.

Some of the delegates expressed their support at the city commission meeting and their hopes for the future of renewable energy.

"It's a pioneering day," said Murray Cameron, vice president of the EPIA.

Cameron praised Gainesville for being the first to venture into the solar feed-in tariff, an idea which he said has seen great success in Germany.

The feed-in tariff began in municipalities and grew to the national level, generating more jobs today than Germany's coal industry, Cameron said.

If America follows a similar pattern, Gainesville may lead the way to the spread of solar feed-in tariffs nationwide, he said.

Cameron predicted that if such a pattern plays out, the U.S. could be the No. 1 solar power market within three years.

"The eyes of the solar world are on you today," Cameron said.

In addition, Gainesville's solar feed-in tariff is expected to have several local benefits.

"This will grow the industry," said Wayne Irwin, president of Gainesville-based Pure Energy Solar.

Irwin said his company has already seen growth in anticipation of the new solar feed-in tariff.

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said if all works out as planned, the new tariff will bolster Gainesville's economy and make the city more environmentally friendly.

"There are very few communities in this country that can say they will meet the Kyoto Protocol by 2013," Hanrahan said.

Welcome to the discussion.