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A multi-million-dollar October for utility-backed solar amendment


In just one month, a solar power initiative backed by major utility companies have flexed some serious muscle.

Consumers for Smart Solar’s October haul: $2.3 million.

Yes, million.

That’s double what they’ve raised since forming in July, almost triple what another solar power group — Floridians for Solar Choice — raised this year (although that group’s October financials were not yet available when this post was published).

Nearly all of that money has gone to National Voter Outreach, a Nevada-based political consulting group that specializes in petition drives. It’s more evidence that the showdown between the two solar power groups aiming to be on the ballot next November is playing itself out on Florida’s streets, where paid petition gatherers are asking voters for their signatures.

But just as telling as where the money’s going is where it’s coming from.

Last month, the Times/Herald reported about the mysterious group behind a $200,000 donation early in October to Consumers for Smart Solar, at the time the largest check they had received. Since then, other groups — especially the state’s biggest utility companies — have upped the ante.

For the month of October, here are the five largest donors to the campaign:

Florida Power and Light: $420,000.00 
Tampa Electric Company: $381,000.00 
60-Plus Association: $350,000.00 
Let’s Preserve the American Dream (the aforementioned mysterious group): $300,000.00 
Checks and Balances: $289,965.00 

Gulf Power and Duke Energy donated $200,000 and $195,000, respectively.

Consumers for Smart Solar is pushing a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the status quo on solar power, allowing individuals to pay for and install solar panels if they so choose. The group has qualified for review by the state Supreme Court and still needs 528,402 petition signatures to qualify for next November’s ballot.

Floridians for Solar Choice, by contrast, wants to let people lease equipment from solar energy companies and sell the power they generate to adjacent properties. Their ballot language has been approved by the Supreme Court, and the group is 476,131 signatures shy of the ballot.