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He’s the state’s point man on all things solar. The center, created by the Legislature in 1975 and operated at the University of Central Florida, is responsible for conducting research, testing and certifying solar systems used in the state.

To hear Fenton talk about solar, it would seem a no-brainer that the state should invest more in the technology and allow consumers the opportunity to put solar on buildings with the abundance of flat roofs. Florida imports virtually all of its fuel, some $50 billion a year that goes out of state. The sun, Fenton and others say, offers enormous economic potential for the Sunshine State but here’s the rub: Florida’s utilities say the solar isn’t economically feasible, can’t provide electricity at night and is weakened when it’s cloudy or rains.

"Today, a variety of disruptive technologies are emerging that may compete with utility-provided services," the Edison Electric Institute, a utility industry organization said in a 2013 report. "Such technologies include solar photovoltaics (PV), battery storage …"

The concern about solar didn’t exist so much even just a half dozen years ago when solar proved too costly to make sense for most anyone. But times have changed. Plummeting solar panel costs combined with federal government incentives, including a 30 percent tax credit, have increasing made solar affordable.

• Two weeks ago, Great Bay Distributors, Florida’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, announced that it would top its new 267,787-square-foot St. Petersburg facility with the state’s largest private solar array at 1.5 megawatts. The system will reduce Great Bay’s electric bill by as much as 40 percent.

Though the federal tax credit expires at the close of 2016, Fenton projects that the price of solar will at that point fall below the average price of residential electricity in Florida. And by 2025, residential electricity in Florida will be twice as much as solar.

And when private entities contribute solar to the grid, Waldmann says it affects the "quality" of the power coming into the system. The grid isn’t receiving the consistent power that comes from coal, natural gas and nuclear baseload generators, she said.

Fenton says the real concern of the utilities is the addition of generation from the likes of the large rooftop generators means the power companies aren’t getting consistent revenue. He said policy can be devised to make the utilities whole because "I truly believe everybody should pay their fair share."

The owner of a shopping center, for instance, cannot install solar on the roof of the complex and sell power to tenants. Excess power generated on a business’ own building or a homeowner’s property can be sold to the power company, but only a utility can sell power to a third party.

Dudley, just as Fenton, would like to see broader use of solar. He has drafted an initiative he hopes to get on the 2016 ballot to deregulate renewable energy production, in particular to stimulate more solar energy. By Dudley’s figures, his initiative would create some 50,000 jobs while reducing the state’s dependence on imported fuels.