Keith Klipstein is working to deliver solar power as a viable option for many property owners on Marco Island and elsewhere in Florida.
In fact, the longtime Marco resident is working to help make that a reality locally by championing the adoption of PACE. The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, offers affordable, long-term, private financing for renewable and energy efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses.
The program was launched in California in 2008 and has since spread. PACEenabling legislation has been adopted by 31 states and the District of Columbia, allowing counties and municipalities to establish PACE programs. In 2010, Florida passed legislation adopting PACE, which included coverage for hurricane-protection improvements.
Collier County also adopted PACE in 2010, but its cities: Marco, Naples and Immokalee, have yet to follow suit. Adoption at the municipal level is necessary because PACE financing is repaid through non-ad valorem payments attached to local property taxes.
PACE allows owners to borrow up to 20 percent of a property’s assessed value for qualified projects, with no down payment required, and a maximum 20-year repayment schedule.
“The nice thing is there’s no prepayment penalty, and there’s no due-on-sale clause,” said Klipstein, a renewable energy advocate and entrepreneur since the 1972 Arab oil embargo. “When you sell your home, you either pay it off out of the proceeds, and the buyer gets free electricity, or you can just let it continue on as a lien on the property with the payments continued, without penalties by the new property owner.”
He said Florida has lagged behind the West Coast and other East Coast states, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina, where governmental support for solar power is concerned.
However, in 2016, voters passed Amendment 4, which provides property tax exemptions for solar installations and other renewable energy devices. The resulting increase in a property’s value is exempt from considered in property tax assessments. In addition, the amendment removes the state’s personal property tax on the installation of solar equipment, making solar system leasing a more profitable business.
“So now seems to be a good time for Solar,” said Klipstein. “Companies are moving into Florida realizing that there are opportunities here.”
His company, Solar Power and Light, provides consultations and analysis for property owners on whether solar is a viable path given their location and the particulars of their property’s structure. When appropriate and acceptable he will arrange installations, through a partnership with experienced, vetted, qualified installers.
Typical residential solar systems adequate to power the average three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, generally cost $30,000 to $40,000, although seasonal residents may benefit from smaller systems because of their reduced usage. Those costs are reduced by a Federal 30-percent Investment Tax Credit that can be carried forward until it is used up.
Property owners recoup the bulk of their costs through lower electric bills. They also benefit from “net metering,” which allows them to feed excess energy back into the electrical grid.
Klipstein said that once a solar array is installed using PACE or other financing, the homeowner’s monthly power costs should be much less their normal bill from LCEC or Florida Power and Light.
He said ensuring a home is energy efficient, with proper insulation, a solid roof, and hurricane-proof, thermopane windows, is all important before installation to avoid buying a larger system than should be necessary. Klipstein recommends including a battery energy storage system in the installation to provide protection during sustained power outages when a utility’s power grid goes down.
“That adds some money to it, but it also makes it a lot more secure in terms of if all the sudden, the power goes out,” he said.
Klipstein has passed along information about PACE to Charlette Roman vicechairman of Marco Island City Council.
Roman said she’s placed the an item on council’s future agenda entitled Municipal Solar and that she’s researching options, including PACE, to present to council in the form of a “white paper.”
“Since my time living in California, I’ve been very interested in solar power,” she added. “I’ve also seen cutting-edge solar power system applications abroad while living in Europe, where the amount of sunshine can’t begin to compare to the ‘Sunshine State.’”
Solar technology has progressed dramatically over the last 30 years to become one of the least expensive forms of energy available, said Roman.
“To reduce future energy costs, the City of Marco Island should explore the feasibility of alternative sources of energy,” she added. “Solar options may provide opportunities to save taxpayers’ money, while also providing an energy source that reduces the carbon footprint and is cleaner for the environment.”
In January, President Donald Trump approved tariffs of as much 30 percent on solar-related equipment made overseas. America’s solar industry receives on 80 percent of its parts from foreign manufacturers. The Solar Energy Industries Association projects the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in what is now $28 billion industry annually.
Klipstein doesn’t envision the industry being crippled by the tariff, if it is enacted.
“Even with that increase, it’s still going to make economic sense for people to go to with photovoltaics,” he added. “It won’t kill the industry, but it will slow it down some. Momentum is too well established to do that.”
For more information about PACE, visit pacenation.us/ and pacenation.us/pace-in-florida/. For more information about Keith Klipstein’s company, Solar Power and Light, visit facebook.com/TheSunPowersEverything/, or contact him at 239-595-5232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.