Sunshine state bans solar power: Florida's Hurricane Irma victims furious at electric company

Residents without electricity told it's illegal to use solar power.

Hurricane Irma leaves behind flooding and destruction in FloridaReuters

Florida residents who are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Irma are angered at the state's electricity board for making it illegal for homeowners to power their homes using solar panels.

As the devastating hurricane left millions of Floridians (as much as 40 percent) without power those who hope to turn to the lifeline of their renewable solar power installation to help get them up and running will be breaking the law.

The Florida Power and Light (FPL) company, which is a major supplier of electricity to the US state, lobbied to prevent homeowners going off-grid using solar power, and would only allow people to use the alternative power source if it was connected to their electric grid.

Advertisement

The company's reasoning behind the decision prohibiting residents from the Sunshine State (nicknamed for obvious reasons) from using sunshine to power their homes is that "operating your renewable system without the bi-directional meter can result in an inaccurate meter reading causing your bill to increase".

Further outrage and bewilderment came in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma as the FPL's rules state that should its own system go down, any connected solar setups must be shut down too, meaning homeowners could not tap into the alternative power source they desperately needed despite it being right in front of them.

In an article by the Miami New Times the company's protocol states renewable generator systems are not a standby power source during an outage and that the "system must shut down when FPL's grid shuts down in order to prevent dangerous back feed on FPL's grid. This is required to protect FPL employees who may be working on the grid".

FPL insists that solar customers install a switch on their systems to cleanly cut them off during an emergency and they cannot turn it back on. The power company also has the power to disconnect homeowners' panels from the grid and lock them out from receiving any electricity without warning them.

One resident called the decision "insane" after describing her daughter and eight-year-old grandson being left without out power in the wake of Irma and couldn't use the solar system they had installed.

Not only has the FPL has been criticised for its strict rules making solar adoption, which could save 2.200 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, lagging behind other US states it has also been criticised for not investing enough to weather-proof its network.

"FPL has also resisted some seemingly foolproof solutions to avoid storm outages, such as burying more lines. In a city that names its sports teams for hurricanes, a huge portion of FPL's power lines still sit above-ground and get blown apart even in tropical storm conditions," reported the Miami New Times.

Advertisement

With many in Florida still without power the plight of the victims from Hurricane Irma may help shine light on the state's solar laws in the hope they may be revised before another deadly storm affects power-less residents again.

© Copyright 2017 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.