Duke Energy submitted plans with state regulators for a burst of solar power in Florida, a shift from partly cloudy to partly sunny in the energy giant's solar outlook. Also in the forecast is a fresh flood of cash to oppose wider freedoms for rooftop solar.
In a 10-year plan filed with the state Public Service Commission, Duke plans to install up to 500 megawatts of solar power in Florida by 2024. Construction leading to the first 5 megawatts was expected by the end of the year, and 35 megawatts were expected on-line by 2018.
Florida is 13th in the country with 234 megawatts of solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“Innovative investments in solar energy will provide customers with more options … while diversifying our energy mix,” Alex Glenn, president of Duke’s Florida operations, said in a statement.
The solar installations will be Duke’s first in Florida and represents an adjustment in policy. In 2013, Glenn told state lawmakers “we are the Sunshine State but we’re also the partly cloudy state” – a reference to Duke’s reluctance to go solar.
Florida Power & Light announced plans in January to build three new solar facilities in Southwest Florida capable of 335 megawatts – triple its current output.
Utility-scale solar promises by Duke and FP&L parallel an effort by a diverse grassroots coalition to get solar energy policy on the 2016 ballot. Past efforts to boost rooftop solar were routinely swatted by highly paid opposition at the highest levels in Tallahassee. According to a story by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, money's no object when it comes to fighting solar.
“Why don’t we have a bigger solar industry in Florida?” said Mike Anthiel, a solar lobbyist. “The answer is simple. Every kilowatt of solar you produce on your roof is one less kilowatt that the utilities can sell you.”
A petition for a state amendment recently surpassed 72,000 certified signatures. That allows the measure to be reviewed by the state Supreme Court. Floridians for Solar Choice needs roughly 683,000 signatures by Feb. 1 to achieve a statewide vote.
Tory Perfetti, director of Solar Choice, says utility-scale solar is an incomplete energy policy. Solar Choice’s initiative would allow Floridians who generate solar electricity to sell it directly to others. State law allows only utility companies to do that.
“Utility-size solar is one side,” Perfetti said. “Allowing consumers and businesses to participate as well … is going to be the best for Florida.”
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