Solar Energy and the Space Coast

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Lots going on in Florida right now with the legislative session approximately half way over. In an effort to bring more stakeholders into the fold and make the case for increased in-state investment in developing the Florida solar market, Vote Solar recently teamed up to bring the Space Coast Energy Consortium to Tallahassee. Susan Glickman, Director of the Florida Business Network for a Clean Energy Economy, contributes a guest post on the field trip:

Florida’s Space Coast is facing the end of NASA’s Shuttle Program later this year. Brevard County leaders are seeking tools to build a clean and sustainable energy economy in their region to help offset some of the dislocation associated with the end of the Shuttle Program.

Leaders from the Space Coast Energy Consortium traveled to Tallahassee to make the case in the State Capitol for a new approach on energy. The group included former Mayors from Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral; Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce leaders and a 22 year NASA employee. They met with a number of legislators, presented at key hearings in both the House and Senate expressing the need for action at the state level including a special Energy District for the Space Coast.

It was a fun 5 hours each way in a large passenger van – but well worth it – to be able to bring these important voices to Tallahassee. Consortium leaders got to town and went immediately to the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee meeting where former Cape Canaveral Mayor John Porter testified.

We met with Budd Kneipp, Chief of Staff to CFO Jeff Atwater; Senator Jeremy Ring from Margate; State Representative Steve Crisafulli from Brevard; Senators Maria Sachs from Boca Raton and Evelyn Lynn from Volusia and a host of others.

At dinner, we were joined by Senators Maria Sachs and former St. Lucie County Commissioner Doug Coward who spearheaded the Solar & Energy Loan Fund, a nonprofit that grants loans to homeowners and businesses for solar and energy efficiency improvements. The discussion at that meal inspired an effort underway now to bring Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds to Florida.

There was an especially great networking opportunity with the Florida Chapters of the US Green Building Council as the visit coincided with their Lobby Days. We attended their reception and their clean energy panel held in the State Capitol.

At the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee meeting Bill Stinson – who has worked at NASA for 22 years – spoke on behalf on The Consortium about the very compelling dynamics in Brevard.

The group was disappointed that Senate President Mike Haridopolos – who represents Brevard County – cancelled his appearance at our luncheon but we made the best of it sharing strategies and information with Florida Retail Federation and Florida Farm Bureau leaders.

This group brought an important perspective to the policymakers but the work has just begun – to overcome entrenched interests and move forward a clean energy economy.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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