What to Know
- New Jersey and Maryland outranked Florida more than a decade ago, as the third- and eighth-best states for solar power generating capacity. However, their ranking has fallen in recent years.
- Florida ranked third in the nation for total solar power generating capacity in 2021, trailing only California and Texas, according to an industry group’s ranking.
- A spokesperson for Crist said his tweet referred to the fact that New Jersey and Maryland derive a larger portion of their electricity from solar.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor, criticized a bill moving through the state legislature that opponents say will restrict the growth of rooftop solar adoption.
The legislation, SB 1024, intends to revise Florida’s net-metering policy, which allows customers to get reimbursed for the excess electricity their solar equipment feeds back to the power grid. If the bill becomes law, customers who own or lease solar equipment could see about a 75% decrease in their reimbursed rate, according to CNN.
Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2010, said that smaller states are doing a much better job on solar production than the Sunshine State.
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"New Jersey and Maryland produce more solar power than Florida, the Sunshine State," Crist tweeted Feb. 3. "A bill that strips solar panel incentives is bad for homeowners, jobs and our environment."
In 2013, Crist said Florida "was hardly doing any solar energy production," which PolitiFact Florida rated Mostly True. We wanted to check in on the numbers and find out whether Florida really lagged behind New Jersey and Maryland’s solar production.
Florida ramped solar production
One way to gauge the accuracy of Crist’s claim is to measure each state’s installed solar capacity — the electricity-generating potential of installed solar equipment.
In 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, ranked New Jersey and Maryland the third- and eighth-best states, respectively, for installed solar capacity.
It might surprise people that smaller states out-produced the Sunshine State, but it was true back then: Florida did not crack SEIA’s top 10, ranking 17th.
That said, the situation has changed.
As of 2021, Florida ranked third in the U.S. for installed solar capacity, with 7,765.1 megawatts. California was first with 32,209 megawatts, and Texas came in second with 12,309 megawatts. (One megawatt is equivalent to 1 million watts.)
The results were similar when comparing the latest figures for each state’s solar generation — the actual amount of electricity produced.
Florida produced more than 7,500 megawatt-hours in 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated. (One megawatt-hour is equivalent to 1,000 kilowatts of electricity generated per hour.) New Jersey produced almost as half as much solar power as Florida, and Maryland produced one-fifth.
"It's possible that former Gov. Crist is speaking to something that is outdated," said Susan Glickman, director of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, a coalition of health professionals concerned about climate change.
Florida lags in rooftop solar
The bulk of Florida’s growth in solar output comes from utility companies and not from residents installing rooftop panels.
The percentage of solar generation coming from small-scale facilities, including homes and businesses, in New Jersey and Maryland is much higher — about 65% for each.
About 15% of Florida’s solar generation comes from small-scale facilities, per the EIA.
Though Florida has enough solar installed to power more than 1 million homes, only about 90,000 households in the state are solar-powered, according to the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.
Florida ranked 21st in the nation for residential solar systems per capita, according to an industry analysis conducted by the SEIA. New Jersey ranked 10th and Maryland was 13th. (The analysis is not available publicly, but SEIA confirmed the rankings with PolitiFact.)
This difference is largely due to Florida’s solar policy.
The state does not allow power purchase agreements, which arrange for a developer to install a solar energy system on a customer’s property and sell the power generated to the customer at a fixed rate often lower than the retail rate.
The SEIA estimates that 83% of New Jersey’s residential solar systems are a result of power purchase agreements and similar third-party solar financing.
Florida also has no renewable portfolio standard policy — which would require utilities to fulfill a certain percentage of a state’s energy needs through renewables such as solar.
Florida’s energy portfolio
When we asked Crist’s campaign about the tweet, a spokesperson said that Crist was referring to the percentage of electricity that New Jersey and Maryland derive from solar.
While Florida has more installed solar capacity and generation, only 4.04% of the state’s electricity comes from solar generation.
This difference is more pronounced in New Jersey, where more than 7% of its electricity comes from solar. In Maryland, however, the difference with Florida is razor-thin, with 4.43% of the state’s electricity coming from solar.
Florida, which is the second-largest producer of electricity in the country, gets three-fourths of its in-state net generation from natural gas, according to the EIA.
Still, there’s little question that Florida produces much more solar generation than either New Jersey or Maryland.
"Florida has more annual solar generation, period, than Maryland and New Jersey," Justin Vandenbroeck, president of the Florida Board of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told PolitiFact.
Crist said New Jersey and Maryland "produce more solar power than Florida."
The raw numbers don’t back him up. Florida generated much more solar electricity than New Jersey and Maryland in 2020 and currently ranks third in the U.S. in total solar power generating capacity.
Where Crist has more of a point is that the smaller states get a larger share of solar energy from small-scale facilities, such as homes and businesses. And despite its sunnier skies, Florida’s overall share of solar is lower than New Jersey and Maryland (but barely).
Crist’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.