"It kept the beer cold" after Irma: Florida mayors push for more solar power

Local leaders — some from cities you might not expect — extol the virtues of the sun.

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click to enlarge A firm in Lealman installed an extensive solar array in 2016. - Kate Bradshaw
Kate Bradshaw
A firm in Lealman installed an extensive solar array in 2016.

You hear it all the time: Florida is the Sunshine State, so why the hell isn't there more solar around?

City officials — especially in coastal areas where shorelines encroach, where millions of tourists flock each year for the warm sun and said shorelines — are wondering the same thing.

That's why this week, mayors from 17 Florida cities are adding their signatures to Environment America's statement calling on a nationwide expansion of solar. The statement itself isn't addressed to anyone in particular. After all, most people are convinced that solar power ought to be more of a thing. And the ones who need convincing — Trump and his ilk — aren't exactly listening; they're rather prolong the death of the coal industry.

But the statement is more of a way to show commitment to expanding solar power in their cities by taking concrete measures toward creating more access to it. In doing so, the statement argues, they're not only helping residents reduce their carbon footprints and save on their power bills, they're creating demand within an already rapidly growing industry, which creates — forgive us for using that tired phrase politicians love — jobs, jobs, jobs.

The other advantage of having solar panels, said South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, whose city recently adopted a measure requiring all new construction and major roof renovation projects include solar panels, is that if the power goes out for days in the wake of a storm like Hurricane Irma, you won't need a loud, gas-guzzling generator to keep your beverages cool.

“Following Hurricane Irma,” Stoddard said in a written statement, “we plugged our fridge into the inverter on our roof-top solar system. It kept the beer cold and the Klondike Bars frozen until the utility power came back up a week later.”

Locally, the list included mayors from two small Pinellas County cities: Mayor Joseph Ayoub of Safety Harbor and Mayor Sandra Bradbury of Pinellas Park — both cities who tend to elect Republicans to state legislative seats who aren't exactly thinking about the environment when they vote.

Other mayors throughout the region have long called for more solar, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose administration has been laying the groundwork for transitioning the city to 100 percent renewable energy over the coming years.

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