FPL redefines community solar

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Florida Power and Light (FPL), in collaboration with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Vote Solar, and Walmart has officially filed a settlement to establish the nation’s largest community solar, after announcing plans for the program in the spring.

The program, named SolarTogether will be the biggest in the United States by a pretty wide margin, a piece of the larger 30×30 program that aims to install 30,000,000 solar panels by 2030, being described by SACE as 30×30’s ‘backbone.’

With the settlement also come new inclusions into the program, most of which are designed to provide inclusion for low-income Florida residents. The provisions are all about saving money, not only for low-income residents, but the rate paying body as a whole.

The updated proposal sets out to allow roughly 10,000 low income households to participate in SolarTogether. Subscribers will have a one year payback period, with a “hold harmless” provision to ensure that there is never an increase in their utility bills. Also offered to these customers, as well as all subscribers is a free home energy audit. FPL anticipates the measures will save participants $1,300 over the life of the program.

As for non-low-income customers, the utility anticipates to save millions of dollars on their bills due to the fuel cost and avoided generation savings that come from the ever-falling prices of solar generation.

So just how large is SolarTogether? 50 MW? 200 MW? Think bigger: 1.49 GW over 20 projects, with six expected to be completed by 2020 and the remaining 14 to be completed by 2021. For those of you who are starting to do the math and are thinking back to the Orlando hydrogen project from yesterday, yes, all of the projects in solar together will be 74.5 MW of powerful community solar.

This is worth note all alone, as the vast majority of community solar projects are in the 1-5 MW range, with some, previously considered massive, outliers pushing the boundary to 20 MW. The previous definition of what it means to have community solar is now obsolete.

Actually, forget this being the biggest community solar program in the United States. This is bigger than ALL of the community solar projects in the United States, with a little extra breathing room. According to SEIA’s most recent data, the United States as a whole has a total installed community solar capacity of 1,298 MW.

What’s even more impressive, is that, depending on how much solar goes on-line in North Carolina by the time of the last project in SolarTogether‘s completion in 2021, Florida will almost surely take the claim for the second largest state solar energy market in the entire country.

The program is projected to generate an estimated $139 million in net savings for all FPL customers, not just subscribers, which is extra impressive given the company’s low utility rates. Subscribers will receive direct credits on their monthly electric bill. With the avoided cost savings referenced above and the bill credits, subscribers are anticipated to achieve a simple payback on their subscription within seven years.

These subscribers are varied, as FPL boasts that municipalities, large national retail chains, universities, banks, restaurants and schools are all represented in the over 200 customers that have have committed to participate. This subscriber base is highlighted by 7-Eleven, the City of Sarasota, Broward College and Florida Atlantic University.