Florida utility to add 300 MW more solar with four plants

Floridians might be forgiven if they’re suffering from whiplash as they watch Florida Power & Light (FPL), which suffered a stinging defeat in last year’s elections after its support for the disastrous Amendment 1 couldn’t push the utility-backed attempt to keep solar development solely in their hands across the finish line.

If the first three months of 2017 are any indication, however, the state’s largest utility has embraced solar with an intensity usually reserved for Nicholas Sparks-manufactured love affairs.

Yesterday, FPL announced it would build four more solar plants in the Vero Beach and Fort Meyers area totaling 300 MW expected to serve 90,000 homes with clean energy. Each plant will generate 74.5 MW of electricity. The Barefoot Bay, Blue Cypress and Loggerhead solar plants will adorn the Vero Beach area, while the Hammock plant is located just east of Fort Myers.

The announcement of the Hammock plant in Southwest Florida surprises no one, as the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates (statistics from 2014, the most recent numbers available) is one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. In fact, the largest county in the area – Collier – ranked in the Top 10 of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas based on population increases from July 2013 to July 2014.

More than 1 million solar panels will be installed on sites ranging  from 400 to 600 acres. The new solar plants are being constructed concurrently with the final plant to begin operation by the end of 2017. Construction work is being handled by Overland Contracting, a Black & Veatch company.

According to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, Florida currently has 8,260 solar jobs, including 3,933 installation jobs. Lee and Colllier counties are home to 594 of those jobs.

Since December, FPL has announced or completed several utility-scale plants and has announced plans for eight new plants by the end of 2018.