FPL opens the floodgates on a tidal wave of solar

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If Florida Power and Light (FPL) had already been off and running with the handful of projects related to the “30 by 30” plan, then the utility has now entered a dead sprint. Today the utility announced that it is beginning construction on 10 projects across Florida, all clocking in at that magical “30 by 30” capacity of 74.5 MW.

Usually when we talk about unprecedented development, it’s in the terms of one large, singular project. However, regardless of the separate locations, what is impressive about this is the total scale: 745 MW.

The plants are set to be located in Charlotte, Hendry, DeSoto, Suwannee, Palm Beach, Baker, Okeechobee, Manatee, Martin and Putnam counties. FPL expects all of the projects to be completed by early 2020, however firm timelines will become clear later in the construction process. Even without a hard date, getting 745 MW operational in close to one year is no easy feat.

Once completed, these projects will increase FPL’s installed capacity by 60%, which is impressive, because usually when a figure like that is stated it’s referencing a 100 MW project in a state with just over 100 MW installed, it’s made only more monumental when that number is 60% of a utility that has already installed over 1.25 GW of solar. All in all, these projects will generate enough electricity to power roughly 150,000 homes.

Almost as significant as the scope of solar being installed is the amount of labor that will be required to keep these projects going. FPL expects that each project will create 200 jobs at peak labor, for a grand total of 2,000 workers plugging away. To keep up with this, FPL has contracted with a handful of South Florida contractors and, impressively, expects a significant portion, if not a majority of the labor to come from Floridians.

And, although their capacities are the same, these…dectuplets? double quintuplets? will be fraternal. A spokesperson for FPL shared with pv magazine that while the company has agreed to purchase 7 million modules from Jinko Solar over the course of the “30 by 30” plan, the projects will use a mixture of modules from different manufacturers. The real distinguishing factors between the siblings will be how they track the sun. That same spokesperson shared that some of the projects will use single-axis trackers and others fixed-tilt racking, though no projects will use a mixture of the two.

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Following the completion of these plants, FPL will have 28 plants in operation. And, of these 10 projects, six of them will support SolarTogether, the utility’s flagship community solar program, one which will be the largest in the country if and when it is approved by the Florida Public Service Commission.

Florida is known for being a crazy state. For now, it’s the state of crazy solar development. But Florida is far from alone. With the huge projects that we are seeing approved in previously under-developed markets such as Ohio and Indiana, even bigger projects in Texas, and the boom in projects applying for interconnection in queues across the nation, the solar tsunami that we talked about at the beginning of this year is becoming a fact on the ground.