SOUTH MIAMI, Fla. – When it comes to saving energy, South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard isn’t leaving a penny. His home runs completely on solar panels that even charge his electric car.
Stoddard, a Florida International University biology professor, has been the mayor of the city since 2010. He earned state-wide notoriety for taking on Florida Power & Light.
"If you have a sunny roof and you don’t have solar on your roof you are leaving money on the table," Stoddard said.
When commissioners voted 4-1 to require new homes to have solar panels Tuesday night, the city became the first in Florida and the fifth in the country with such an ordinance.
The other four are in San Francisco and three other cities in California, which mandates new buildings with less than 10 floors to designate at least 15 percent of the roof area to be ready for solar panel installation.
The ordinance in South Miami requires that for every 1,000 square feet of roof area there be 175 square feet of solar panels. But if the home is under existing trees or in the shade, the homeowner can request an exemption.
"Sunshine is free the means to harvest it are so inexpensive at this point you gain a profit by doing so," Stoddard said.
The profit is earned over time. At first, the solar panels will have a cost even for homeowners who will be working on renovations that involved more than 75 percent of the home's total square footage.
The cost of solar is relative to the size of the home. It's not a variable cost; it's a fixed cost.
Commissioner Josh Liebman voted against the ordinance, because he didn't want to impose the cost on low-income families.
"I didn’t oppose solar, absolutely for solar but I’m for freedom of choice," Liebman said.
The ordinance will take effect Sept. 18.