Florida Power & Light races to a solar future

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy talks to students from around the state at the FPL Manatee Solar Energy commissioning in Parrish on Monday.

It’s an about-face the solar industry can certainly get behind.

After last year’s contentious battles over two solar amendments, including one backed by Florida Power & Light (FPL) that would have restricted solar growth in the state (the effort, Amendment 1, was soundly defeated by voters in November), the utility has opened the throttle on its own solar development, promising to add eight new solar plants by early next year.

The utility made the announcement at an event celebrating FPL’s three latest solar plants – FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center and FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center – all of which were commissioned late last year.

Building on the success of those plants,  FPL is planning to build eight new plants by early 2018 – comprising more than 2.5 million solar panels. The utility claims that its ability to deliver solar on such a large scale makes its solar energy more affordable than distributed-generation solar arrays. It says the new plants will save FPL ratepayers millions of dollars over their functional life.

Together, the plants will have 596 MW of capacity, which could power approximately 120,000 homes. Though specific locations have not been announced yet, they will be located near Gainesville in north-central Florida, as well as near Sarasota on the Gulf Coast.

“We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers,” said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. “We have proven that it’s possible to cut emissions and deliver reliable service while keeping electric bills low for our customers.”

FPL currently operates more than 335 MW of solar generating capacity, which could power 60,000 homes. Major installations include:

  • FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
  • FPL Martin Clean Energy Center (hybrid solar/natural gas), Martin County
  • FPL Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway, Volusia County
  • Solar research installation at Florida International University, Miami-Dade County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Broward Young At Art Museum & Library, Broward County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Palm Beach County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve, Manatee County
  • FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County
  • FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee CountyAmen

FPL found itself embroiled in controversy last year when it supported a ballot initiative called Amendment 1 that would have kept solar energy production solely in the hands of utilities and away from homeowners’ control. After a series of hilarious missteps by the backers of the amendment in the closing weeks of the campaign, Amendment 1 was rejected overwhelmingly by the voters.