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South Miami Wants To Be Powered By The Sun

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The mayor of South Miami says he wants to see the city powered primarily by the sun.

As part of a recent resolution passed unanimously by the council, officials want to transition to running the city on 100 percent renewable energy in the next 20 years.

It's the first city in Miami-Dade to make this type of commitment.

Mayor Philip Stoddard, who is also a Biology professor at Florida International University, does not just talk the talk. He has thirty solar panels on his roof.

"We've had them there for five years and they make enough electricity for the house and the car," he explained.

Stoddard is reducing his carbon footprint and he wants all homes and businesses in South Miami to follow in his footsteps.

"Part of the reason I ran for public office was to be able to instigate these sorts of changes," he said. "These are my values."

The City Council passed a resolution to commit to the goal of 100 percent clean and renewable energy by the year 2040. It's part of the so-called "Ready for 100" initiative by the environmental group the Sierra Club. This would move forward on the city's current eco-friendly efforts.

"Two years ago, South Miami was the first city in the United States, outside of California, to require solar on new residential construction," said Stoddard.

The Sunset Plaza Shopping Center will also soon be equipped with 100 kilowatts of solar power.

"It's great for South Miami to be at the forefront of something like that because I don't think we can move forward without some type of initiative," says resident Luigi Vitalini.

He's an architect and installed the first solar panels on a business in Downtown South Miami. He also has them powering his own home.

Vitalini admits the panels are an investment. He had his installed for about $20,000.

"I think it's worth it," he said. "I mean, I don't have a new car, but I don't have to pay for electricity!"

David Kelly, a professor of Sustainable Business at the University of Miami, said while it is a good idea, it will not be a quick process and it will not come cheap.

"Solar panels involve a lot of up-front capital expense," he said. "Then you make it up in lower electricity cost over a period of many, many years - decades probably."

He's unsure of the reality of a 20-year transition timeline, but he did say this is part of a growing movement towards energy efficient practices in the world of business.

"Look at it as an opportunity," he said. "It's a way to say, 'Okay, we're going to be able to differentiate our product. We're going to be able to tell our customers we're trying to do good with respect to the environment.'"

To illustrate, he said eight years ago, 20 percent of S&P 500 firms were doing sustainable business. Now, it is up to 85 percent.

As far as what the next step will be to make this happen, Mayor Stoddard said a study by FIU students will help them figure that out. He said it should be complete by the end of the summer.

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