FPL to put online Florida’s first large utility-scale solar plants

Florida utility customers got a big break last week, when Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced that it was shuttering a 250 MW coal plant in Jacksonville and completing three solar projects totaling 224 MW-AC.

GTM Research says that the Manatee Solar, Babcock Solar and Citrus Solar projects will be the first solar plants of this scale in Florida, a state which has enormous solar potential but has seen limited deployment. FPL has repeatedly stated that it expects these projects to be online by the end of the year, and GTM Research Solar Analyst Colin Smith says that this is in line with his expectations.

The utility had a long-term power purchase agreement from 1988 with the Cedar Bay coal plant in Jacksonville, but now has bought the plant to shut it down, which it says will save its customers more than $70 million, as well as preventing nearly 1 million tons of carbon emissions annually. FPL is also in the process of buying and phasing out another coal-fired power plant in Indiantown, Florida, which it says will save its customers $129 million.

Due to lower capacity utilization at solar projects than “baseload” conventional generation the new solar projects are unlikely to replace the annual electricity generation of these coal plants on their own. FPL has also noted that it has increased its natural gas generation.

However, GTM Research’s Smith says that he expects more utility-scale solar to follow these three plants. “Every state market is going to go through some ups and downs through now and 2020, but Florida is going to a be a pretty substantial, 200+ MW per year market in the next couple of years, and this is the start of it,” Smith told pv magazine.