South Miami’s Forward-Thinking Mayor Champions Solar Mandate

Pro-solar law is tabled as stakeholders examine how it would interact with Florida building codes.

At a meeting on June 20, South Miami commissioners voted unanimously to table a measure that would require all new residential construction to be installed with solar panels, but if Mayor Philip Stoddard has his way, solar will be gracing the rooftops of all new residential projects soon.

The law would stipulate that for every 1,000 square feet of roof space, 175 square feet of solar panels would have to be added. People adding on or altering their homes are exempt if they leave at least 50 percent of the square footage of the existing roof and outside walls intact. This would be the first law of its kind in Florida, but it is modeled after similar laws that have existed in California municipalities since 2013.

Mayor Stoddard says that limiting the ordinance to new and residential construction would make this rule more feasible for residents and allow the city to test its effectiveness on a smaller scale. “The main thing is to start small and start simple,” he says. “In new construction, particularly residential, you put a roof on your house in the process of building your house. “When you do that, if you want to put solar on it eventually, it’s very important to reinforce the roof to make sure it can take the extra weight.”

Stoddard reminds  that adding solar panels to a new home can cost as little as 1 percent of the total home cost, and that the relatively low cost of solar makes it practical for even affordable housing. “I know a number of affordable housing builders that put solar on affordable housing, and they do it because the cost at today’s prices of solar, which are down now,” Stoddard says. “At these prices, solar more than pays for itself over a relatively short period of time.”

About 15 people spoke at the meeting. Although the majority were in favor of the measure, some were concerned about the effect the ordinance could have on home prices in the real estate market.

Stoddard said that even if the government isn’t doing enough to fight climate change on the state and federal levels, the city needs to do its part to move forward. “So we’re sitting in here, looking down the barrel of a gun, and everybody’s doing their best to pull the trigger on us,” Stoddard says. “And I can only take so much of this. I’ve got a child, I’ve got grand-nieces and nephews, and I’m looking at the future.”

The commission will revisit the measure in a few weeks after the measure is amended, particularly in how it interacts with Florida’s building code.

Check out this video Mayor Stoddard spoke at Green Builder Media’s Sustainability Symposium last year. Watch him here.

Erin Schroeder is a freelance writer and editor based in St. Charles, Mo.