Originally published on CleanTechnica.
Last fall, SolarLove.org noted a bump in solar growth in Manatee County, Florida, with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) revealing 3 of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects were in development. Last week, FPL enjoyed the groundbreaking ceremony for the solar power plants. The most immediate to go online will be the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center and the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, with clean energy hitting our grid by the end of 2016. The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center is the third power plant in this trio, and it is actually where the groundbreaking took place.
Together, these solar power plants result in a tripling of FPL’s solar PV power capacity.
As solar news goes, this is good. Still, the question: can the state do better? The previous SolarLove article noted, “Of course, it would also be nice if Florida supported rooftop solar. However, as you probably know, the state has been very unsupportive of rooftop solar, not providing incentives for homeowners like other states provide, and not even allowing for third-party solar ownership and sales (i.e., not allowing companies like SolarCity, Sunrun, Vivint Solar, and Sungevity to come in and offer solar leases and PPAs).”
Florida isn’t close to being a leader in total installed solar power capacity, and the story is even worse if you look at solar power per capita or per TWh of electricity generation. This is despite the fact that its nickname is The Sunshine State.
FPL’s argument is simple “Large-scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of all of our customers.”
The FPL newsroom reminds us, though, that Florida was a leader of sorts for a bit: “Six years ago, not far from here, FPL commissioned what was then the largest photovoltaic solar power plant ever built in the United States with 90,000 solar panels,” said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. “Fast-forward to 2016, and we’re extending our leadership role in the renewable energy space by installing 1 million new solar panels.”
A nice plus is that 250 people (during the construction phase of the 3 new solar energy “centers”) will find work. As employees will come from the local communities, more locals will find financial improvement.
Continuing, FPL writes:
The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center will consist of more than 338,000 solar panels over 762 acres – enough to cover 577 football fields. The other two solar plants are:
- FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, which is being built on 841 acres in DeSoto County, Fla., near the site of FPL’s first large-scale solar power plant
- FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, now under construction on 440 acres in Charlotte County, Fla., as part of the new Babcock Ranch sustainable community
- When completed, each of the three new solar plants will have 74.5 megawatts of solar 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 megawatts of new solar capacity by the end of this year. (current totals approximately 110 megawatts)
The environmentalist community in Florida is quite pleased with the progress. “This is a big step forward for our state and for the future of renewable energy in Florida,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “FPL’s three solar plants help reduce the use of fossil fuels, prevent the emission of thousands of tons of carbon each year, and save millions of gallons of water.”
Check out this interesting graphic below, which was generated by typing in my zip code here to pull up a chart of Florida’s energy sources. Florida needs a lot more black and aqua on the graph. As one can see below, The Sunshine State is lagging behind the rest of the nation on renewables.
If you are in Florida — make sure you signed the grassroots push for a Florida constitutional amendment to grow solar power further.
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Top image, FPL’s Desoto solar plant, via FPL