Florida Power & Light to Company (FPL) announced plans on Monday to add some 225 MW of PV to its power mix by the end of 2016, tripling its existing solar capacity of 110 MW.
The company said it planned to install more than 1 million solar panels at three additional solar power plants as part of its efforts to advance affordable clean energy in Florida. Each of the new plants will have a capacity of approximately 74 MW, resulting in 222 MW. FPL is also installing about 3 MW of community-based solar installations and other small-scale arrays, bringing the total new solar capacity to 225 MW. FPL would begin construction on the plants later this year and complete them by the end of 2016.
FPL said it had identified three sites with built-in advantages, such as the existence of sufficient transmission and substation infrastructure, which reduce the overall cost of building new solar plants.
In the coming months, FPL intends to present detailed plans to the local communities identified as the most likely locations for new solar plants. The anticipated plants and sites include FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County, near Florida's first large-scale solar plant, which FPL commissioned in 2009; FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County; and FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center in Manatee County, on the site of an existing natural gas power plant that FPL operates.
The company said the new PV plants are being designed to cost-effectively complement other major system improvements, which include the retirement of some of the company's oldest fossil fuel-burning units and the continued investment in clean, fuel-efficient, 24-hour power generated from U.S.-produced natural gas and zero-emissions nuclear fuel.
The utilitys current solar portfolio includes 75 MW at the hybrid FPL Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center; the 25 MW FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center; and the 10 MW FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
"Over the past decade, we have continuously focused on advancing reliable, affordable, clean energy for our customers," said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. In particular, we have been working especially hard to find ways to advance solar energy in Florida without increasing electricity costs, and we have developed what we believe will be a cost-effective plan to triple the amount of solar energy we use to serve our customers before the end of 2016."
According FPL, solar power even the most economical large-scale installation is generally not yet cost effective in the utilitys service area, due in part to its higher costs compared to what the company said was its highly efficient system and low electric rates. FPL added, however, that the three uniquely advantaged sites would facilitate the cost-effective development of the new, large-scale solar plants.
In addition, as the cost of solar PV is projected to decline further later in the decade, FPL is optimistic that it could potentially add even more solar energy generation to complement its natural gas and nuclear resources while continuing to meet the electricity needs of Florida's growing economy and population on a cost-effective basis, the company noted.
"As the economics of solar power improve in the years ahead, we believe we will be able to harness more and more sunshine cost-effectively, alongside essential, high-efficiency, clean natural gas generation and zero-emissions nuclear power, to continue powering our customers and the state's growing economy with affordable clean energy," Silagy said. "These exciting large-scale solar projects, equivalent to roughly 45,000 typical residential rooftop systems, will bring new tax revenue and several hundred new jobs to rural communities we serve and deliver emissions-free power when the sun is shining to our customers across the state."
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