South Miami makes history with new solar construction requirement

It might be a small, tree-lined city, but South Miami is now at the forefront of solar in Florida and nationwide. Recently, the municipality approved an ordinance that will require solar for all new residential construction and for significant renovations. Four other cities, all in California, have similar rules.

The move was sparked by a high school student, Delaney Reynolds, who wanted to see her hometown take more decisive action toward embracing renewables. She worked with South Miami Mayor, Phil Stoddard, for a year drafting the legislation. Reynolds believes it’s her generation that will inherit the mess of climate change, and she was set on doing something about it. Amended several times through public input, the ordinance faced intense opposition in the form of coordinated blogs and articles attacking the mandate.

These attacks included robocalls to residents from a Washington, D.C.-based organization that calls itself Family Businesses for Affordable Energy organization. The calls misled listeners about the nature of the ordinance and its deception drove people to public hearings where the commission had to continually correct the record.

Despite the attacks and deception, the Commission voted in favor of the new rule 4-1. Beginning next month, new residential construction will be required to install 175 square feet of solar panels per 1,000 square feet of sunlit roof area, or 2.75 kW per 1,000 square feet of living space, whichever is less. Homes that are under renovation that increase their footprint by 75% or more will also be required to go solar. Homes under a tree hammock will be exempt. (South Miami also mandates the planting of trees.) Homes being renovated due to natural disaster will be exempt.

“Solar reduces the cost of home ownership, it makes houses sell faster, it returns more to a builder, it makes local jobs, and most importantly, it reduces carbon emissions today to help our children and grandchildren have a better future tomorrow,” Stoddard said.

Reynolds plans on taking her ordinance statewide and the ordinance has been submitted to the League of Cities. Orlando and St. Petersburg have already expressed interest.