FPL’s solar facility in Manatee County is shown here.
Construction is underway on Florida Power & Light’s next eight solar power plants, which in total will produce enough energy to power 120,000 homes, company officials said Wednesday.
The plants under construction are in Indian River, St. Lucie, Hendry, Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties. The total investment is about $900 million.
The new energy centers, which will comprise a total of more than 2.5 million solar panels and nearly 600 megawatts of capacity combined, are all on track to begin powering FPL customers by early 2018. The plants are called universal solar because through the power they send to the grid, they serve all customers.
“FPL is living proof that it’s possible to generate cleaner energy and deliver outstanding service while keeping customers’ electric bills among the lowest in the nation,” said Eric Silagy, FPL’s president and CEO. “We are proud to be advancing affordable clean energy infrastructure in Florida in close partnership with respected environmental advocates, community leaders and our customers. Together, we are bringing the benefits of solar energy to more Floridians faster and more affordably than ever before.”
Each of the eight new solar plants will be capable of generating 74.5 megawatts of zero-emissions energy when the sun is shining. Power from the plants will feed FPL’s energy grid.
FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said, “These solar energy centers will pay for themselves in fuel savings over the life of the plants. They will save customers approximately $40 million or more in fuel costs.”
Construction costs have decreased in the last few years as the panels are cheaper, and FPL has become better at building them, Daly said.
About 500 people are working on construction across the eight solar sites. FPL expects the construction workforce will grow to approximately 1,500 during peak activity this summer.
Daly said FPL is planting pollinator-friendly plants, wildflowers and natural grasses at the sites and is working with Audubon Florida to find ways to make the sites even more environmentally friendly.
The solar plants need a lot of land, an average of 450 acres each, but produce no emissions and don’t use any water.
The sites are in various stages of early construction, ranging from ground-clearing work to initial infrastructure installation. The first solar panels are being installed at the FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, which straddles Alachua and Putnam counties.
“FPL continues to transform the energy landscape of the state and nation, and we are honored that North Florida is playing an important role,” said Brian Bergen, vice president of economic development for the Putman County Chamber of Commerce. “These new solar power plants are about more than just affordable clean energy. They’re also delivering economic benefits right here, right now.”
In addition to a portion of the FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, the FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center is also being built in Putnam County.
The eight new FPL solar plants under construction and their expected completion dates are:
- FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, Alachua and Putnam counties (by Dec. 31, 2017)
- FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, Putnam County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
- FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center, Indian River County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
- FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
- FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center, Brevard County (by March 1, 2018)
- FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, Indian River County (by March 1, 2018)
- FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, Hendry County (by March 1, 2018)
- FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County (by March 1, 2018)
Florida ranks ninth in the nation for solar resource – the strength of the sun’s rays. FPL projects that solar will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by the year 2020. By 2023, FPL estimates solar will reach 4 percent of its generation capacity.
Florida ranks 13th in the nation for solar installed, with 725 megawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This includes residential, commercial and utility-scale solar.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that in March for the first time, electricity generation from wind and solar, including utility-scale solar and small-scale systems, exceeded 10 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S. On 2016, wind and solar made up 7 percent of total U.S. electric generation.
In 2016, FPL became the first company to build solar cost-effectively in Florida, leveraging its purchasing power and sites with key advantages to complete three 74.5-megawatt universal solar power plants that are projected to result in net customer savings over their operational lifetimes.
From 2017 through 2023, FPL plans to add nearly 2,100 new megawatts of solar, including the approximately 600 megawatts currently under construction. Those plants will provide enough energy to power 420,000 homes, Daly said.
The Volusia County Commission recently approved a site in Samsula, the first for the additional 1,500 megawatts of solar.
FPL has been studying and operating solar in Florida for more than three decades. In 1984, FPL commissioned its first universal solar installation, a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic facility in Miami that helped the company’s employees gain experience with the then-emerging technology.
Over the years, FPL has continued to test and operate a wide variety of solar technologies. In 2009, the company built the 25-megawatt FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which was the largest solar PV power plant ever built in the U.S. at the time.
FPL already operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity throughout the state:
- FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County
- FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
- FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County
- FPL Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center (hybrid solar/natural gas), Martin County
- FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
- FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
- FPL Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway, Volusia County
- Solar research installation at Florida International University, Miami-Dade County
- FPL SolarNow array at the Broward Young At Art Museum & Library, Broward County
- FPL SolarNow array at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Palm Beach County
- FPL SolarNow array at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preser