Florida Power & Light was quiet almost two weeks about a statewide campaign for a solar choice amendment in 2016. On Monday the third-largest electric utility in the U.S. supplied a salvo with plans to build three new solar plants in Southwest Florida, including a facility in Manatee County.
FPL said each new plant was being designed to produce roughly 74 megawatts of power. With local approval, construction on the plants was expected to begin later this year and be completed by the end of 2016, FPL said.
The Manatee County facility is eyed at the the site of FPL’s natural gas power plant in Parrish. The other facilities will be in DeSoto and Charlotte counties, FPL said.
FPL but said its 4.7 million customers can expect “a cost-effective plan” without hiking rates. The timing of the press release was unrelated to the arrival of Floridians for Solar Choice, FP&L spokeswoman Alys Daly said.
Daly said plans for new solar facilities were in a financial report released to investors in October. The coalition started a petition drive Jan. 14 to put solar energy policy on the 2016 ballot. Daly said FPL was still not commenting on the solar initiative.
“Solar is something we have been doing, and we’ve talked a lot about,” Daly said.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – a driving force in the alliance for a 2016 amendment – said utility-scale solar was a step forward.
“When coupled with smart investments at both the commercial and residential scale, utility solar projects form the third leg of a vibrant solar market that is greatly needed,” Stephen Smith, head of SACE, said in a statement.
Daly said solar production at a new facility on FPL property in Parrish can tap existing transmission lines and power substations to hold down costs.
FPL's solar output is currently 110 megawatts, less than 1 percent of its electricity generation, according to FPL's website. The utility calls on natural gas for about 70 percent and nuclear for roughly 17 percent.
In addition to Parrish, new facilities in DeSoto – near the Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, the state’s first large-scale solar effort in 2009 – and at the Babcock Ranch community near Fort Myers will raise FPL’s solar profile by more than 225 megawatts. The current capacity at DeSoto is 25 megawatts.
The new plants will involve more than 1 million solar panels, FPL said.
“There's no simple, silver-bullet solution to the complex challenge of planning to cost-effectively and reliably meet future energy needs,” FPL president Eric Silagy said.
Photo cut: FP&L's Solar Energy Center in Arcadia. An extra 74 megawatts is planned nearby. (Via FP&L)[/caption]
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