Despite its nickname of “the Sunshine State”, for years Florida’s solar market languished while other states such as California, North Carolina and even Georgia became leaders. But all of that is changing, and fast.
Today utility Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced that as of the first of the year construction contractor Blattner Energy has put online four solar plants, each 74.5 MW-AC in capacity, for the utility.
The FPL Horizon, Coral Farms, Indian River and Wildflower PV plants together comprise 1.3 million PV modules on fixed-tilt mounting systems. This 298 MW-AC of new solar adds to the 335 MW that FPL already has under its ownership, and will be joined by another four projects of identical capacity that Black and Veatch is building for the utility.
Along with this, FPL announced that it has retired a 1.3 GW coal-fired power plant which it jointly owns with municipal utility Jacksonville Electric Authority. The utility says that the St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville was no longer economical to operate, and this is the second coal-fired power plant that FPL has shuttered over the last two years.
In contrast to coal, FPL says that the new solar is a bargain. The utility estimates that the eight new PV plants will save its customers more than $100 million over the course of their lifetimes, while retiring the St. John’s plant will save $183 million. The utility stresses its track record of rate reductions, showing that the cost of electricity for a typical 1,000 kWh-per-month customer has fallen from 2008 to 2018.
By 2020 FPL expects the new PV which it has put online to represent 4% of its fuel mix. Following the retirement of a third coal plant FPL estimates that coal and oil will represent less than 1% of its fuel mix.
FPL is far from the only Florida utility planning large amounts of solar. Last month Tampa Electric sought cost recovery for 600 MW of solar that it is building, and last summer Duke Energy Florida announced plans to build 700 MW of solar under a legal settlement that included environmentalists and large energy consumers.