‘House of the rising sun’: Floating solar proposal clears one Legislature chamber
Image via AP.

Floating solar
The bill, which passed unanimously in the House with no discussion, still needs Senate approval.

Legislation triggering work on plans to open many water bodies throughout the state to floating solar energy arrays has cleared the House and now is on its way to the Senate.

On Thursday, the House approved a bill (HB 1411) by Miami Springs Republican Rep. Bryan Ávila that would direct the state Office of Energy to develop and submit to the Legislature recommendations for a regulatory framework for the development and operation of floating solar-power facilities.

The bill passed 112-0 with no discussion.

Provided the measure passes in the Senate, those plans — which would cover both private- and public-sector entities — would be due Dec. 31.

An identically titled and similarly worded measure filed by Hialeah Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. awaits a second reading before the full Senate.

Sometimes referred to using the portmanteau “floatovoltaic,” the floating photovoltaic facilities only would be permitted atop man-made water storage reservoirs, including wastewater treatment ponds, abandoned lime rock quarries, stormwater treatment ponds and reclaimed water ponds.

No floating solar facilities would be permitted in any Everglades reservoir project if local governments say it will negatively impact the area or project.

The bill also originally extended that exception to the Lake Belt area, a roughly 89-square-mile region in northwest Miami-Dade County whose wetlands provide a buffer protecting the Everglades. But it was removed in a Feb. 4 amendment.

That amendment also extended to municipalities the power to adopt ordinances specifying “buffer and landscaping requirements” for the facilities — language Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg-King of Boca Raton and the Florida League of Cities requested in January. Prior to the change, that power only fell to counties.

The state bill comes more than 2 ½ years after the Miami-Dade Commission approved a resolution directing then-Mayor Carlos Giménez’s administration to study the feasibility of using floating solar.

The item’s sponsor, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, then a County Commissioner, said the county was “uniquely positioned to take advantage of floating solar technologies” due to its “significant number of artificial lakes.”

Miami-Dade commissioners separately approved a 15-year, nonexclusive deal in March 2019 allowing Florida Power & Light to install, operate and maintain solar power equipment on Glide Angle Lake at Miami International Airport.

A similar system was installed last year at Orlando International Airport.

Floating solar power plants already are being used in Asia, home to the 10 largest facilities on the planet. But they’ve also grown increasingly popular stateside since the 2008 construction of 1,000 pontoon-mounted panels in California’s Napa Valley — the first nonexperimental floating solar array.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, installing solar facilities on water bodies identified as suitable for the technology could produce 10% of current national power generation.

Research also has found solar panels help to prevent the formation of harmful algal blooms in the waters upon which they are placed, which in turn have a “cooling effect” on the panels that boosts power production.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn