After only three years of development, a small town in Florida has moved into the ranks of the solar big leagues worldwide. The municipal utility serving Gainesville, Florida expects that by year end 2011 the town will have installed 7.3 MW of solar photovoltaic (solar PV) systems.
The university town was one of the first in the U.S. to implement a feed-in tariff for solar PV after a previous program using grants, tax credits, and net metering had failed to install any significant number of systems.
Gainesville Regional Utilities serves a population of 200,000 people. Thus, the utility's feed-in tariff program has resulted in the installation of 0.036 kW per person. This is equivalent to that in California which has had various programs for solar PV in place since the early 2000s.
However, Gainesville will have to increase its installation rate 20 times to catch up with the German state of Bavaria, which is the region with the world's highest concentration of solar PV of 0.60 kW per person. Puglia Italy is not far behind Bavaria with 0.49 kW per person.
By year end, solar systems in Gainesville will be generating nearly 1.5 million kWh per month. In 2011, the utility estimates solar PV will have generated nearly 10 million kWh.
The Gainesville feed-in tariff program has been modified annually since its introduction to reflect the falling costs of solar PV and to more equitably distribute installations across all ratepayer classes.
More than one-third of the installed capacity has been installed on rooftops in projects less than 100 kW in size.