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Florida Power & Light Co. is making progress three new large-scale solar energy centers, the company reported as part of the Florida Public Service Commission’s annual ten-year site plan workshop.
Projected for completion by the end of 2016, the three new plants will triple FPL‘s current solar power capacity cost-effectively — with no net cost to customers over the plants’ operating lifetimes.
“FPL has been working to advance solar affordably in Florida for more than a decade,” Pamela Rauch, FPL’s vice president of development and external affairs, told the PSC. “Large-scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of all of our customers.”
The three new plants and the counties in which they are being built are: the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County, Fla.; the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County, Fla.; and the FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County, Fla.
Currently, solar power is generally not yet cost-effective in FPL’s service area, due in part to its higher costs relative to the company’s highly efficient system and low electric rates.
FPL, which has been working for several years to find ways to advance solar cost-effectively, identified three suitable existing sites with built-in advantages, such as the existence of sufficient transmission and substation infrastructure. These advantages, combined with support from the local communities, are helping reduce the overall cost of construction and enable the company to advance solar cost-effectively.
In addition, FPL announced the selection of engineering, procurement and construction firm, Black & Veatch, to design and build the three plants at a competitive cost. Engineering work is well underway, and FPL expects to officially break ground later this year. Actual construction activity is expected to take approximately one year to complete.
Each of the three new plants is being designed for roughly 74 MW of capacity. These plants, along with several community-based, small-scale solar arrays and commercial-scale solar research installations that FPL is building, will combine for a total of more than 225 MW of new solar capacity by the end of next year. This will effectively triple FPL’s solar capacity, which currently totals about 110 MW.
FPL’s current solar portfolio includes the 25 MW FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center; the 10 MW FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; and 75 MW at the FPL Martin Clean Energy Center, a hybrid solar/natural gas plant.
FPL is leveraging multiple advantages and expertise gained from building its first three large-scale solar power plants to drive down costs, enabling cost-effective large-scale solar to become a reality for the first time in the Sunshine State. The potential is strong: According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) data, more than 98 percent of Florida’s solar potential is in large-scale solar, compared with less than 2 percent for rooftop installations.
FPL estimates that large-scale solar in Florida produces about 2.5 times more solar energy per dollar invested than small-scale systems. In addition to capitalizing on economies-of-scale, FPL has selected sites with prior permitting and/or site development that offer close proximity to existing transmission infrastructure.
Based on the projects’ location in Southwest Florida, where the state’s solar resource is strongest, FPL expects to see as much as 5 percent greater energy production from the plants’ panels compared with projected generation in other areas of the state. Solar resource, or the intensity of the sun’s rays to reach an area, affects the ability of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. Overall, Florida ranks ninth in the country for solar resource, according to NREL, and Southwest Florida has the strongest solar resource within the state.