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South Miami Requires Installation of Onsite Solar at Apartments

Apartments Onsite Solar

On June 18, the South Miami City Commission passed an ordinance to require developers and operators to install solar technology in new apartment construction and in existing apartment buildings after expanding the building size by 75- percent or greater. According to the ordinance, housing providers may place solar panels on the roof, garages, patio covers or gazebos at the community to fulfill the requirements. South Miami adopted the solar mandate as part of an agreement between Miami-Dade County and the City Energy Project (CEP). The City is located within Miami-Dade County, which has partnered with the CEP to reduce greenhouse gases countywide. CEP is a nonprofit that works with cities to create plans to reduce carbon emissions locally.

The long-term benefits of the ordinance are questionable. In advocating for the changes, the South Miami City Commission argued that the ordinance would create secure and resilient electricity throughout the city.  However, in practice, solar equipment is vulnerable to weather events, and because onsite solar needs to be connected to the local utility’s power grid, service would be affected by power outages. Sources are concerned that solar installations are vulnerable to hacking.

While proponents of the legislation believe the ordinance will spark the creation of more local jobs in the solar industry, in actuality these claims are unproven. There are many opportunities in construction since there is high demand for new affordable housing developments in South Florida. The new requirements may be an issue for financing these projects as the requirement would add to development costs and ongoing building maintenance.

Another concern is that it is unclear if the Florida Public Service Commission allows owners to directly bill residents for solar power. This creates a difficult regulatory situation for local property owners to manage. Additionally, South Miami may face scrutiny over the ordinance as the Florida building code requires municipalities to have a unique issue to resolve before they can amend code on a local level. Sources indicate South Miami’s justification-- creating jobs and resilient infrastructure -- is questionable.  It is likely the city could be sued over the mandate.

Despite the obstacles, mayors continue to look for ways to expand private involvement in their energy initiatives beyond mandatory energy benchmarking and are looking at solar mandates as the answer. Many cities made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. NAA continues to monitor these proposals and any new innovations in financing that incentivize developers and operators to generating more energy efficiency building stock voluntarily. 

The legislation goes into effect starting in September of this year.